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Rebecca Gates

In 1997 Rebecca Gates became the sole Spinane when long-time musical partner Scott Plouf took the drum stool with Built to Spill -- leaving Gates to craft the masterful Arches and Aisles (the band's epitaph) alone. After Gates's subsequent move to Chicago, she entered into a period of reflection about her music and became increasingly involved with the Windy City's underground scene. These factors figure heavily in her first post-Spinanes release, the atmospheric and gorgeous Ruby Series.

Weighing in at a slight seven tracks and just more than 30 minutes, the album at first seems to skate over the senses without leaving a trace of its passage. Subsequent spins, best undertaken with headphones for a more personal involvement, reveal an album of incredible subtlety and infinite delicacy. Utilizing members of the Chicago postrock cognoscenti, including John McEntire (Tortoise, the Sea and Cake), Noel Kupersmith (Brokeback, the Chicago Underground Quartet), and Mikael Jorgensen (Movere Workshop), Gates has created a quietly cinematic album, a soundtrack to a movie to which only she has a ticket.

Gates's songs flow effortlessly, simultaneously suggesting a smoky jazz club and a darkened bedroom. This is sensual, late-night music, and Gates throws in dashes of Tracey Thorn, Joni Mitchell, and Julie Doiron, creating an environment where joy and melancholy exist on the same ambient plane without the roller coaster of emotional spikes. With Ruby Series, Gates attempts to distance herself from the brittle and affecting altrock she created with the Spinanes. The disc also documents her evolution into a new musical form, an evocative and languid style that recognizes her potent past but embraces her confident future.

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Brian Baker

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