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Ruins - Vrresto

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Artist: Ruins

Album: Vrresto

Label: Skin Graft

Review date: Apr. 26, 2005

Despite their modest success in the late ’90s with the release of Refusal Fossil, Tokyo’s Ruins have faded from the consciousness of most American listeners. Recent years have seen the release of Tzomborgha on Ipecac and a compilation of early material, 1986-1992, on Skin Graft, both with little fanfare. Now follows Vrresto, a reworking of an album issued in Japan in 1998, and, yet again, American audiences seem nonplussed.

Perhaps it’s because Ruins albums, on the surface, can sound indistinguishable. A close listen, however, will reveal very distinct qualities that signal changes in the band’s line-up or aesthetic. Tatsuya Yoshida, Ruins founder, composer, and drummer, has been the group’s only stalwart, and, as he’s found new bassists, Yoshida’s also shifted Ruins’ sound so that, no matter how unmistakably “Ruins” it remains, the band’s never been stagnant, or at least not for long.

Vrresto was originally released in 1998 on Yoshida’s own Magaibutsu imprint, but this version of the album is reportedly quite different (those of us who never laid down the cash for the original import may never know the difference). Yoshida and Sasaki Hisashi, who’s been the group’s bassist since 1997, were, especially in this era, great fans of shifting gears. Vrresto rages and coos, often in the space of a few minutes. The stunning mix of Magma-esque prog and punk sensibility that’s been Yoshida’s calling card is present, but Vrresto goes in so many other directions that it’d be highly uneconomical to list them all here.

When “Zumn Vigo” explodes in a strange nonsensical burst of seemingly improvised scat, it’s not the first time things have taken an unexpected turn, nor is it the last. “Jarregoh” moves from beautiful, serene vocals and MIDI piano into some of the album’s most visceral material, and the duo prove, over the course of Vrresto to be willing (and quite able) to construct transitions between nearly any musical terrain. More importantly, no matter how significant the change, Yoshida and Hisashi are adept at smoothing out the corners and eliminating the creases, so that things don’t feel out of place. Some of Hasashi’s MIDI work and effected bass jut rather conspicuously from the rest of the musical canvas, but it’s a rare occurrence. Yoshida’s broadened compositional palate, later exhibited in an even more refined manner on Tzomborgha, is in full bloom here, and Ruins are in top form. The delayed American release of Vrresto seems well worth the wait.

By Adam Strohm

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