‘New Ruins’ is a blissful release from Full Spectrum newcomer Marsha Fisher. Fisher is a Minnesota-based sound artist, but New Ruins dates back to a previous time in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they used to live. A collection of recordings from that era in the artists life, the music unspools just like its heavily-processed tape loops, as its textures frequently congeal, are often indecipherable, and are beautifully vague. Overall, New Ruins is a quiet record, overflowing with depth and transcendent beauty. Fisher’s music enjoys a quiet existence and wouldn’t exchange it for anything else, and it almost seems like it’s retreated from the world, either temporarily or permanently, for its own betterment and renewal.
New Ruins is a ‘hushed meditation on hidden beauty, spirituality, and cultural consumerism’. Fisher’s modular synth and tape loops are primarily sourced from old Christian genre music and praise cassettes, which they discovered while rooting around in a number of thrift stores. The indistinct sounds that emerge become beautiful meditations, no matter the religion or the cassette’s original intention or theme. One was a jazz fusion record, and another comprised of instrumental soft rock – both are described as being ‘conceptually dry and inoffensive cultural documents created by Christian record labels for consumption by God-fearing men and women who perhaps did not want to associate with outlets like Windham Hill or Nadara Productions, who might have been slipping blasphemous ideas into their record, what with their eastern religious iconography and casual dips into spiritual mysticism’.
In these cassettes, strong elements of new age were present, but any attached spirituality was siphoned out of the music. Ancient images and historical tomes can’t stain the resulting record, and they don’t weigh on or press upon New Ruins, which is liberated all the more due to its religious escape. Fisher has salvaged these old recordings. One may say that the music’s able to transcend the original subject matter and ascend even higher precisely because of its dissolvement and recontextualization. Music can escape the often constricting bonds of religion, even as the record was built upon its very foundations; the record wouldn’t exist without its source material. New Ruins is built on its old and outdated conservatism, constructing something new and perhaps kinder upon its ruins.
Fisher has turned these old recordings into genuine and sublime pieces of music. The original genre would’ve been Christian easy-listening, but Fisher has widened the lens, and also respectful of its origins. Marsha also shines a light on the complex role of Christianity in the world, which is replete with an uneasy duality. One could argue that the religion has been an incredibly damaging force for many throughout history, used as excuses for murder, suppression, individual arrogance, abuse, and hatred over such minor things as sexual orientation. Being a deeply polarising force, the flip side sees religion as a saving grace and a cherished prize which can unite billions of people just as much as it can divide them. Fisher keeps the music neutral while also ensuring that it glows with a beautiful light, to the point of it being Heaven sent.