Ruth Garbus – “Mono No Aware” & “Healthy Gamer”

The Vermont musician Ruth Garbus has announced a new album, Alive People, the follow-up to 2019’s Kleinmeister. Garbus is sharing two tracks from it today, “Mono No Aware” and “Healthy Gamer” — both are mellow and wordy, as Garbus’ thoughts unspool around, respectively, a spindly guitar line and a plodding beat. Across six minutes, each are engaging and inquisitive. Check them out alongside Garbus’ statements on both below.

“Mono No Aware”:
Sometimes I go to my studio with the intention of doing something, writing something, practicing, any kind of music or art, and I just get pissed off. I don’t like doing things that aren’t easy. Mono No Aware ejected out of me from that honest bustedness. My darkness usually goes back to my teen years. I am often in a dialogue of some sort with that time in my life. Mono No Aware is a Japanese phrase that, to me, identifies a particular, painful beauty of things as they pass in time, never to return. Not quite nostalgia, but perhaps related. To be able to take my angsty mess and frame it with that phrase is a gift – to see the folly of the suffering and appreciate simply being able to experience it, in this life which will end, makes all my small pains seem like petals on a flower. Julia Tadlock and I always sing this together. She takes the lower octave and I the high. It feels amazing to sing it; when we’ve rehearsed it, the long, slow pace of it and the monotone melody require deep in-breaths and steady, constant exhalations. We feel a bit light and spacey and relaxed after a couple rounds of singing it. It becomes a meditation, a healing, an acceptance. What a wonderful thing it is to sing!

“Healthy Gamer”:
Gaming is cool, gaming is weird, gaming is a wild world and I love thinking about it and I feel a kinship on one hand and a fascination on the other. Except for lots of childhood Jill of the Jungle and Myst, I’ve only played Ocarina of Time. My coworker lent it to me a year or two ago. I was so amazed by what a wonderful experience it was. Very similar puzzle energy to crosswords, which is my drug of choice. Healthy Gamer is the creation of Dr. K, this awesome guy who uses his skills as a psychologist, plus his knowledge of meditation, and his experience as a former long lost gamer boy to help young people through their toughest challenges in this world. Elie, who plays keyboard on this song, is the one who introduced me to Healthy Gamer. It was during the seriously quarantined and isolated part of the pandemic, and watching these long-form interviews Dr. K does with, like, 19 year old gamers who were struggling with making meaning in their lives and focusing on anything besides video games was so helpful for me. I love Twitch. I love the whole culture. I don’t know what it is. Also I haven’t played Breath of the Wild but even just hearing about it from my friend Kyle just made me imagine wonderful things…the intertwining of fantasy worlds and depression and gorgeous imaginary landscapes and treasures and then this poignant heart of young people being like “I don’t know what the fuck to do with my life.” I could go on and on. I love it. Thank you Dr. K. This song is dedicated to you.

01 “Julia”
02 “Mono No Aware”
03 “Healthy Gamer”
04 “Somerset Rind”
05 “Rubber Tree”
06 “A Philosophicall Key”
07 “Whisper In Steel”
08 “Waiting On The Sun”
09 “Powder Of Sympathy”
10 “Pastel Umbrella”
11 “Sports”
12 “Reenchantment Of The World”
13 “Jessie Farms Nothing”

Alive People is out 8/25 via Orindal Records. Pre-order it here.