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Ruins - Pallaschtom

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Artist: Ruins

Album: Pallaschtom

Label: Skin Graft

Review date: Feb. 27, 2006

Personnel changes within Ruins have always been inevitable. Founder and percussionist Yoshida Tatsuya is the group’s constant, but in the duo’s 20-plus years, he’s enlisted four different bassists. The departure of the latest, Sasaki Hisashi, marks what’s likely the most notable personnel change in the group’s history, as he had been a part of Ruins for almost a decade, three times as long as any of his predecessors. Recent Japanese performances under the Ruins-alone moniker have featured Tatsuya playing solo, something he debuted stateside in 2005 on a tour that also featured one-time collaborations with selected bassists in each city. And with the tremendous skill and flexibility required to play (and sing) Ruins’ aerobic prog, the search for Hisashi’s replacement may not end any time soon.

Luckily, for American listeners, all’s not quiet on the Ruins front. The lull in new recordings has allowed Skin Graft Records to issue a retrospective of the group’s early work, as well as remastered reissues of discs never before released in the US. Pallastchom, which was originally issued in Japan in 2000, would take five years to reach American ears, but hearing the album today inspires no short-term atavism, as it’s difficult to find such idiosyncratic music dated, especially given the album’s similarities to the duo’s latest effort, 2002’s Tzomborgha.

Pallastchom falls within Ruins’ recent Technicolor era, in which Tatsuya’s range as a composer has widened even further, and Ruins have made some of their most diverse music yet. Recent efforts from the band, this album included, have also been some of their most blatantly bright and fun. The intricacy of Tatsuya’s songwriting, of course, is still present in spades, and despite any light-heartedness within, Pallastchom isn’t short on the blunt force that can interrupt intricate riffage with nary a second’s notice. But, more than ever, this era of their work finds Ruins more willing than ever to lock into a groove, engage in wry stylistic quotation, and, at least in their own way, let loose and swing. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, however, it must be known that, for better or worse, Pallastchom is yet another album that falls within Ruins’ typical forte, and that’s part of its problem.

In one sense, it’d be hard to ever consider Ruins predictable. Tatsuya’s songwriting ties rock music in a pretzel, with a garnish that hints of jazz, classical music, and even children’s music. But, such musical acrobatics have started to become old hat for Ruins, and despite some shifts in bass tone, production, and the outer reaches of their compositional palette, the core of the duo’s output has remained the same for quite some time. That’s why Pallastchom, an album which, taken upon its own merit, leaves little room for complaint, can feel like such an uneventful chapter in the history of a band who’s at their best when inciting excitement and confounding open ears. The disc closes with three medleys, and no matter how impressive Ruins’ collages of classical music, hard rock, and prog might be, one may easily wish that the rest of Pallastchom inspired such a sense of anticipation to hear Ruins’ next move in a series of rapid fire redirections. Perhaps Tatsuya’s search for a new bassist will end with a player who will instigate a shift in the group’s dynamic, as Hisashi did upon his enlistment in 1995. Or, maybe Tatsuya will choose to go it alone, which will undoubtedly leave its mark on Ruins’ music. Either way, it appears that Hisashi’s departure may not be as lamentable as it initially seemed.

By Adam Strohm

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