Dana Ruh: Naturally
Underground Quality

I have no idea whether Dana Ruh owns a house or dog, but I imagine if she did, she'd neither open the front door to let the animal run wild nor have it tied up on a leash in the backyard. Instead I picture her opening the back door and letting the dog run freely within a fenced-in backyard. Such surmising is prompted by the material on her debut album Naturally, whose tracks are marked by a kind of controlled free play, as oxymoronic as that might sound. In short, the Gera, Germany-born and Berlin-based DJ-producer allows the elements within her tracks lots of room to maneuver, but she also never lets things get too out of hand.

Ruh's garnered a justifiable amount of attention, not only for having established her own Brouquade label but for deep house-styled EPs she's issued on labels like Buzzing Fly and Ostgut Ton. But with eleven tracks presenting approximately eighty minutes of music, Naturally obviously offers the most comprehensive account of Ruh's style and abilities to date. Her beats are typically minimal in nature, made up as they are of crisp hi-hats and kick drums, but she adds a plethora of other sounds to keep the listener engaged: a siren's wail in “Don't You Find Me,” for instance, which bolsters the cut's big-city vibe; a haunting motif that wavers through the background of “Jammin'”; and piano sprinkles and dub stabs alongside a vaporous organism convulsing through “Dirty Egg.” Aside from beats, another favoured element of Ruh's is vocals, samples of which are sometimes aggressively placed at the forefront and other times woven into the arrangement as muted texture.

Consistent with its title, “Solstice (Intro)” eases the listener into the album with a subdued pulse, hushed murmurs, and hazy atmospherics. As a scene-setter, it's credible enough, but the album really kicks into gear with “Don't You Find Me,” a slinky slice of warm micro-house Ruh distinguishes by draping a funky bass solo across its steamy groove. The tracks that follow perpetuate the bounce and jump of “Don't You Find Me,” with “Go To Work” making good on its title by powering its exuberant female stutters with a stabbing house pulse that's as delicious as it is infectious, and “Education” rolling out a lithe, acid-tinged groove of powerful kinetic design. As the album nears its end, “My Cave” gets its groove on with a locomotive hi-hat pattern, military snares, and wiry bass throb, while the glorious “Train Ride To You” achieves lift-off using jubilant string washes for fuel.

As polished as the album is, some of its cuts (“The Wish You Told Me” one such example) play like perfect background music for a party—not Ruh's presumed goal, one presumes—whereas others (“Go To Work,” “Education”) are rife with so many stimulating sounds one couldn't possibly imagine them being relegated to the background. But regardless of whether a track is more subdued or forceful, it's always characterized by a strong forward thrust in keeping with the club-focused spirit of the album.

March 2014