In Midas Rise, London singer-songwriter Joseph Ruddleston delivers an indie-folk album rich and delicately layered in both instrumentation and vocals, at times lush and energetic and at others sparse and sad—ultimately making for a nuanced and worthwhile piece of work in a crowded genre.
While indie-folk rock is a pretty wide and well-populated landscape, Ruddleston avoids some of the more foot-stomping, sing-song-y sensibilities popularized by the likes of The Lumineers and The Avett Brothers. Rather, there's a respect for delicate mandolin notes and layered instrumentation more akin to Andrew Bird, while certain harmony chains could be compared to Grizzly Bear or their offshoot, Department of Eagles.
That's not to say there aren't some high energy, standout tracks. The second song, “Mango Hill,” has single written all over it and finds Ruddleston at his catchiest. The track has several distinct movements as well as vocal turns seemingly ripped from an animated Disney classic (Disney covers actually dot his Soundcloud). The late album track “Silver Salute” also conveys quite a bit of energy. While it's one of the record's strongest songs, it's atypical of the work as a whole—with electric guitar, crashing symbols, fuzzy bass and rich walls of harmonies planted right in the middle of the singer's extensive vocal range.
In between some of these more energetic tracks there are a handful of slow burning, soulful and/or sorrowful songs. One of which “The Golden Lament” features nearly quaking but confident vocals set atop a hauntingly simple organ, at first, eventually exacerbated by building levels of choral harmonies and sweeping string tremolos.
As a whole, the album is a very coherent piece of work. Songs slide gently into one another; energy built on one track is burned off the next. It's all been painstakingly constructed, but when it plays out, it does so feeling as natural as a light spring storm.
The whole thing has been beautifully recorded and produced at FirePlace Studios in New York, partially in collaboration with some other artists Ruddleston met through his appearance on and work with HitRECord, a production company and TV variety show helmed by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Ultimately I'd have no problem recommending this album to anyone who remotely enjoys folk and doesn't run at the mention of “Appalachian dulcimer.” While indie-folk acts some to be a dime a dozen these days—and quivering vocals over a washboard can grate on anybody—Ruddleston has proved an apt and able musician as well as songwriter. He's also managed to stitch it all into an album that fits together and flows naturally.
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