Ruins – Vrresto


Saying that Ruins defies mere categorization may sound like a cop out, but it’s the truth. The Japanese drum-and-bass duo could only be called progressive rock if the emphasis is clearly on progressive – and even that is stretching it – because these guys surely don’t sound quite like anyone else. Their manic blend of freeform jazz, noise, funk, and whatever other oddities they thrown in the mix is not an easy one to absorb. Vrresto is like a slice of carefully choreographed insanity with tons of technical skill, lightening fast tempo changes, and faux operatic vocals that make Mike Patton look like a wannabe.

Ruins has been around for more than two decades – carefully but not quietly plodding away in Tokyo’s underground. The duo comprised of Sasaki Hisashi and Yoshida Tatsuya creates unique music with only bass, drums, and a midi controller, yet they sound like a much bigger force than two people should be able to produce. Despite a formidable catalog of releases, they have yet to worm their way into the hearts of American music fans in any sizeable way. Vrresto, originally released in 1998, is presented here remastered and partially re-recorded, with just the tiniest bit of new material. Unfortunately, it seems American music fans are still largely incapable of grasping what Hisashi and Tatsuya are all about, or at the very least not enough people have heard the duo’s music.

It’s equally as unfortunate to see just why Ruins probably hasn’t been able to establish a much larger fan base in this hemisphere. Music like this can’t be understood in one brief listen – you won’t put this disc on and find yourself immediately singing along. Not that you could, since the operatic vocals largely consist of gibberish. But even so, it’s the confusing assault of dissonant and grating sounds and blending of one track to the next that will likely send many people into a panicked frenzy that makes you feel like your brain is simply going to burst. On the other hand, if you can get past that first onslaught, you will begin to discover something much subtler underneath the rapid-fire drumming and earth-shaking bass. The texture Ruins creates is pure mind-bending euphoria that you won’t soon forget.

Vrresto is a fun album if approached with an open mind, but true prog-rock and noise fans will probably be the ones most likely to really get into this release. Even those not usually interested in the more avant-garde and freeform stuff might dig Ruins once the dust settles. While some groups have no business sticking together for five years, let alone 20, Hisashi and Tatsuya seem to have a vision that works phenomenally well for the right audience.