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Video Premiere: “Cartoon Heart / Build Me a Question” by R. RING

14 August 2023

Photo Credit: Kristian Svitak

Shortly after the release of their gloriously homespun 2017 debut Ignite the Rest, beguiling indie rock duo R. Ring began working on material for their follow-up. Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery collaborated on fragments, again enlisting drummer Laura King (Bat Fangs, Superchunk), Lori Goldston on cello, and Joe Suer on vibraphone. Of course, R. Ring and friends had no clue that their process would be sidelined by a pandemic.

Engaged in other projects (Deal with The Breeders and Protomartyr and Montgomery with his Candyland Recording Studio) and waiting out a global crisis, Deal and Montgomery tinkered on nearly-finished tracks and bided their time. In early 2023, with a tentative hope that the coast was somewhat clear, R. Ring re-emerged with War Poems We Rested (out now on Don Giovanni Records) an album replete with three-minute songs that stagger and strut in equal measure.

The album’s opener, “Still Life,” declares itself as the first of many thrilling stylistic fake-outs. In this case, King’s colossal drums quickly crescendo before toppling into a bone-dry torch song. The taunting top-line dances like a ghostly Marianne Faithful across a seasick chord progression embellished by Suer’s vibes. The second song, “Hug,” is a neat fusion of a classic Deal chugging dynamo and Montgomery’s guitar fuzz dream while repeating its mantra, “We’re all here.” This one-two opening salvo establishes the album’s far edges: by turns swaggering, joyful, vulnerable, and stark.

Another standout in an album stuffed with mini-gems is the spectral “Exit Music.” Over an eerie suspended organ, a choir of breathy Kelleys caress a startling, mazy melody that feels like an otherworldly transmission, while underneath the band burbles and squalls like 154-era Wire.

But War Poems We Rested isn’t all head fakes and sonic collage. Montgomery’s “Likeable” grants a two minute affirmation (“I consider myself very likeable”) over a sturdy, rolling arrangement, while King’s “Def Sup” strides through a rubbery groove with chunky analog synth jabs. And “Cartoon Heart / Build Me a Question” blasts through a bratty two chord vamp while Deal ponders the Big Questions: “What is the name of your favorite song? What’s up with your crooked leg?”

Even though War Poems We Rested was momentarily quarantined, R. Ring used the opportunity to blow up the idea of album packaging and design. Singer and poet Matt Hart (Nevernew), tasked with writing some notes, enlisted a cadre of friends to create new poems inspired by each song, which resulted in a chapbook lovingly designed and handbound by Louisville’s alla testa. The first 200 copies of the War Poems We Rested LP included this poetry collection featuring Sadie Dupuis, Hanif Abdurraqib, Lee Ranaldo, Jackie Clark, Sara Jaffe, Rose Zinnia, Amber Tamblyn, Alejandro de Acosta, Jeremy Michael Clark, and Peter Davis.

Music | R. Ring
Don Giovanni Records