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Ruins



You could call them prog on PCP. The Ruins are among the most notorious among Japan's aurally demanding noise rock exports. I mean, these guys make the almighty Boredoms look like kindergarten fare. Like virtually all Japanese noise bands, they are incredibly talented, precise musicians, which stands as part of the reason why their rhythmic onslaught is so utterly overwhelming; they play games with your head in so many other ways besides sheer crushing noise (a tactic they do resort to regularly, however). The Ruins take the cosmic complexity of classic progressive rock outfits -- Yes, Rush, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, etc. -- and turns it into psycho minimalist avant-punk. In other words, utterly chaotic and out of this world, yet astonishingly rigorous and disciplined. It's like this giant musical in-joke, these Japanese madmen transforming the humorless melodrama of '70s stadium rock into high-speed comic book nonsense punk, and while it's a bit challenging to the ear, it's also pretty entertaining.

As with Rush, the genius of the Ruins starts with its drummer, Tatsuya Yoshida, who's also the group's "singer" and sole permanent member. The violent, rapidly shifting textures Yoshida produces with the collision of his sticks and skins stretch the limits of comprehension -- can he really be human? A rotating cast of bassists has joined him over the years, the most recent being Hisashi Sasaki, whose six-string bass makes for some terrifyingly powerful rhythms, and, when played through heavy effects filters, produces sounds you'd never expect the instrument to make. The duo plays songs with some of the battiest time signatures in all of rock, full of unexpected tempo changes that see them stop on a dime and change direction. Processed noise plays a big role, making things still weirder and more distorted. And there are melodies here, of a sort; Yoshida provides these with hyper-manic, caffeinated vocals, mostly sung in some nonsense language, often improvised on the spot, which make you want to offer him a Valium or ten. This is definitely not background music; The Ruins demand to be heard.

Yoshida started The Ruins way back in 1985, and has employed a number fellow spirits in his quest to share is maniacal prog-punk vision with the world; prior to Sasaki, Ryuichi Masuda served as the band's bassist, and The Ruins have also been known to collaborate with such notables as John Zorn, Steve Albini, Derek Bailey, and Jad Fair and Jason Willett. The mad, staccato "Etymology" comes from The Ruins' 1998 release, Refusal Fossil, on Skin Graft.