In review: TUSCAN RUINS – ‘MIEL’ (BLACK SPRING, 2018)

Words: Doug Wallen

Tuscan Ruins is the moniker of Melbourne-based ambient producer Tom Murchie, whose late-2018 release Miel was one of the hidden gems that flew under most radars last year. Featuring serene soundscapes and a crumbling natural grandeur, Miel is an engrossing listen and an incredibly strong showing from a creative entity still in its infancy.

Melbourne producer Tom Murchie debuted both his latest solo outlet and new tape label last October, with Tuscan Ruins’ seven-track EP on Black Spring. Aside from an initial premiere on Ripe, the small-run tape has languished under the radar since then, but its immersive, quietly diverse approach to ambient music deserves to be heard more widely. Especially since it’s up for name-your-price download on Bandcamp.

While ‘Seaweed Hairs on the Rockbeds’ makes for a fairly nebulous introduction, it does establish the project’s eroded radiance, as well as an oceanic vibe that carries into other tracks. There’s also some background chatter and a hiss of gentle noise, among other low-key layers. But it’s the next track, ‘The Windswept Harbour, Her Curtained Navel’, that really grabs our attention, thanks to an eerie, bleary synth hook that’s not so distant from the Stranger Things theme. Between its snowy distortion and mounting pulse, it’s more active and corporeal than any other track here, making it the best shot at a calling card for Tuscan Ruins.

But the subtler reaches of Miel can be just as satisfying in their own way. The slo-mo serenity of ‘Alone at the Tyrrhenian’, complete with waves and seagulls, recalls American ambient guru Huerco S. and the quieter stretches of Actress albums like Ghettoville. ‘Burnt Onion’ more specifically echoes the waterlogged lullabies of Huerco S.’s gorgeously subdued 2016 LP Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have). There’s still more range to come, between the coolly lurking layers of ‘August in Palermo’ and the soft-edged contemplation of ‘Painter’, which hews closer to Brian Eno’s early, genre-defining ambient work. As for the molasses-paced blossoms of noise and melody on the closing ‘Ribbon Tooth Storm (Stay True to Your Brothers)’, there’s a bit of M83 about it.

Whatever the exact mood he’s inhabiting from track to track, there’s a consistent feeling of wistful reflection and crumbling natural grandeur to Tuscan Ruins. Fittingly, Murchie started the project after living in the seaside Tuscan town of Viareggio, and he’s working on a second tape for release later this year. Prior to this project, he recorded some ambient techno as Runsthevoodoodown, and before striking out into music he devoted himself to writing poetry, a continuing passion that may manifest more in future releases on Black Spring.

Miel is certainly a promising start for the tape label, which Murchie says is about “releasing specifically poetic/emotional ambient music, with noise and experimental influences.” Next, the label plans to showcase new Melbourne artist Body Clock, established U.S. artist Forest Management and Murchie’s nascent project Rain Dogs, which features proper vocals and more of a synth-pop bent.

That slate alone is enough to warrant keeping close track of Black Spring’s evolution. The prospect of more Tuscan Ruins material only sweetens the deal.

BANDCAMP / SOUNDCLOUD