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Ruins - 1986 - 1992

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Artist: Ruins

Album: 1986 - 1992

Label: Skin Graft

Review date: May. 21, 2002

There's something oddly beautiful and kitschy about Japanese musicians' revisionist take on Western music. Take the Boredoms, for example - a band who distilled the essence of hardcore punk and noise rock into blasts of controlled chaos, simultaneously retaining punk's rough-hewn edges and turning it into something lacking almost all precedent. And then there's Ruins, the bass and drums duo that drummer Yoshida Tatsuya has helmed with a rotating cast of bassists for almost seventeen years now. Citing influences as far ranging and prog-rockers Magma and composers like Chopin, it's no wonder their entire recorded output plays like the strangest trip through music hallowed halls of history you've ever heard. The duo has always managed to toss everything from the aforementioned prog and classical influences in along with punk and noise references, in addition to the oddly Tuvan vocal stylings, influencing perennial weirdos like Mike Patton and Lightning Bolt along the way. To celebrate the band's long and storied (as well as influential) history, Skin Graft has put together this compilation of of hard to find and out of print vinyl releases from the band's earliest years.

If you've ever heard Ruins before, then stop reading this right now, do yourself a favor and pick 1986-1992 up right now, as it's utterly essential for any diehard fan. If you're new to the chaos that is this masterful duo, then this is probably as a good a place as any to start as it lays the groundwork for everything to follow. There's the short, intense bursts coupled with peculiar vocals that make the first few tracks like "Cambodia" and "Body & Soul", in addition to the careening tracks like "Entropy" and "Birth Control", all low end madness and frenetic drum work to match the completely off the wall vocal stylings. But as anyone who knows the band will tell you, there's more to Ruins than just punk trappings. Take the prog inflected "Hallelujah", which rollicks in its bass violin meanderings and fluctuating rhythms to match the freaked out vocals. It's undoubtedly tracks like these that laid the groundwork for much of Mike Patton's subsequent work. Or "Dadaism", with it's Kurt Schwitters-esque rantings and similarly styled bass and drum attacks, jumping back and forth from rhythm to rhythm to make even "Merz" seem tame. "Infect" plods along with its sludgy beats, while "Bug" alternates between chaotic drumming and intricate thuds to get its point across.

At twenty-three tracks and over seventy minutes, I could ramble on and on about this record for quite some time. Indeed, even though I have been a fan of Ruins for quite some time, a lot of these tracks are quite new to me as they were thoroughly hard to find before this release. As I said earlier, if you've never been privy to the chaotic attack that Ruins have perfected, then this will serve as an excellent introduction to their work overall. For the hardened Japanese New Music fan, this collection ranks up there as completely essential alongside some of the earliest Boredoms recordings as the textbook that bands such as Melt-Banana and the like now follow. With a sheer level of sonic malevolence that few bands before or since have matched, we can only thank the heavens above that a band like Ruins exists to show the world how weak other music is in comparison.

By Michael Crumsho

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