SAX RUINS (ipecac recordings)

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November 2018
SAXRUINS (Jp)
Yoshida Tatsuya (drums), Ono Ryoko (alto sax w/effects)
The most important drummer in Japanese avant-garde music scene,
Yoshida Tatsuya and The best saxophonist in the Japanese improv
scene, Ono Ryoko, form a tag team called SAX RUINS. As SAX RUINS they
released two albums [Yawiquo (2009) from Ipecac Recordings] and
[Brimmguass (2014) from Skin Graft]. Their recordings are extremely
complex with the irregular beats, frequent excessive overdubbing, and
restructured orchestration. The result sounds like a big band playing
progressive Jazz hard core. SAX RUINS has done shows in Japan as well
as Europe, Russia, Israel, and China, and performed at Rock In
Opposition(R.I.O)2008. For live performance of Sax Ruins they make
hard core sounds like a huge band by full use of effects also
incorporating improvisation Their shows unfold as a vehement drama.
As a drummer and composer, Tatsuya Yoshida’s been making ridiculous, fiendish and frequently baffling music for more than 20 years. With Ruins, Koenjihyakkei and others, he creates dense, hyper-kinetic prog/math-rock, minimalist in instrumentation, maximalist in compositional complexity, accompanied by lyrics with no meaning beyond the phonetic. Aside from occasional diversions into keyboard-led prog or skronky-skree improv sessions with Derek Bailey, Ruins has largely been a two-person bass–drums clinch. But it’s never been the same two for long. One can only assume that the combination of an intensely intimate line-up and the demands of such garishly intricate music must be supremely stressful. Four official bassists have thus far twisted time and space in Ruins, the last and finest of whom, Sasashi Hisaki, departed in 2004. A number of bold deputies stood in on the ‘Bassist Wanted’ US tour, but Yoshida has mostly been mano a drumo as Ruins Alone.
For a long while, it seemed as if Ruins were heading the way of their defunct monumental namesakes. Enter saxophonist/flautist Ono Ryoko (Acid Mothers, Ryorchestra). She is the resurrection, Yawiquo her progeny – 17 of the band’s classics, with brass in place of bass.
It is nuts.
Even for a die-hard Ruins fan, well versed in their brand of post-human ultra-nimble mathematical bludgeon, this is gobsmacking stuff. These songs are absurdly technically demanding, their relentlessly protean structures both fluid and boxy, their true form and purpose only ever apparent in glimpses. So far, so Ruins. The difference here is partially one of density – the multi-tracked horns rampage all over the frequencies with cacophonous but disciplined screeches and honks. ‘Komnigriss’, for example, formerly a spider caught in mid-scamper, becomes a small gang of Sonny Rollinses, out of their minds on uber-coffee and looking for trouble.
S A X    R U I N S
Formed by Tatsuya Yoshida (drums) and Ono Ryoko (alto Sax) to perform Ruins’s songs in 2006,sas Sax Ruins , they have restructured the orchestration of Ruins with the involvement of the saxophone & flute with the result sounding like a big band playing progressive Jazz Core .
ONO RYOKO is actively working as an improvisational musician in Nagoya , Japan . She also plays in Jazz , Rock , Funk , Rhythm & Blues and Hip Hop bands , as well as working as a studio musician . In 2007 , she formed her own band “Ryorchestra” . Ryoko has created her own musical language , “Language R” to compose and write lyrics . Some tracks have dramatic movements like progressive Rock , and some have clear Classical influences .
TATSUYA YOSHIDA is one of the most innovative drummer/composer/improviser in the Japanese Avant-Garde music scene . He is the founder and drummer of Ruins . He crafts a new , complex and concentrated style , incorporating the expressiveness of Prog Rock , the freedom of Jazz and the energy of Punk . This group’s unique basic instrumentation of drums and bass was no less than a palace revolt against the established role of the rhythm section . As if setting the basement servant headquarters aflame and then tromping upstairs to take control of the house , the two musicians let their amazingly intricate rhythmic patterns become the music – not that “rhythmic patterns” is much of a description of what most of it sounds like , kind of like calling the Thames River “water” . He also plays in numerous groups ; he needs to , to sustain sufficient space for his overflowing creativity . Yoshida has worked with many musicians such as John Zorn , Derek Bailey , Bill Laswell , Keiji Haino , Otomo Yoshihide , etc. + plays & played with Zeni Geva , Acid Mothers Temple , Pain Killer , Korekyojinn , Akaten , etc. + has been released more than 100 CDs .
Yoshida Tatsuya is the lone gunman of the Avant-Prog prairie. In the course of a career that spans almost three decades by now, he has only occasionally performed in a conventional rock-band context, and when he did, his stints usually didn’t last very long. Tellingly, his main musical outlet, the Ruins, was (and, in a way, still is) not a full band, but a duo in which the drum maestro performed alongside a rotating cast of bassists. Four different bass players (one at a time, of course) have played in the Ruins over the years, and after the last one had left – not long after the release of the excellent Tzomborgha –Yoshida decided to continue without a bassist, under the moniker Ruins Alone. This little narrative is not, of course, meant to imply something about the drummer’s character. The point of this introduction is a rather obvious one: unflinching dedication to a cause can often result in your being the only one left.
In Yoshida’s case, though, this has not impeded his musical career in the least. Unable to find a bassist with the skill and spare time needed for the Ruins, he has – as mentioned above –turned the Ruins into a tape- and/or computer-assisted one-man enterprise. Moreover, he has recorded and performed with several high-profile avant-garde musicians, among them John Zorn, Keiji Haino, Uchihashi Kazuhisa and Satoko Fuji. That’s elevated company, and many of those collaborations don’t just look good on paper, they’ve also yielded (at times) spectacular results (Erans, the duo recording with Satoko Fuji, deserves particularly high praise).
Viewed against this background of excellence, the recorded output of Ruins Alone (so far) is a bit of a letdown. The sole full-length release suffered from a sterility that often comes with man-machine interplay, and didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. In a way then, Sax Ruins – a project with saxophonist Ryoko Ono (that’s just one letter away from good old Yoko) – can be viewed as an attempt to remedy those shortcomings. Blimmguass is the duo’s second full-length, and considering its quality, I have to kick myself for missing out on the Ipecac-released debut.
While the new record features mostly revisions of well-known Ruins classics, that’s not a problem at all – not even if you’re a long-time fan like me. The saxophone is, of course, endowed with an expressiveness that’s far beyond the scope of even the most heavily effects-treated electric bass, and Ono’s virtuosic playing brings out moods and colors the originals could only hint at. Vrresto starts off the record, and it’s a fine enough opener, but the first real jaw-dropper here is Refusal Fossil. In four short minutes, it assaults with jarring stop-start blasts and multi-tracked sax blowing that easily rivals the volume and intensity of a violently strummed electric guitar; this is punchy jazz-punk on par with Zorn or Zu. The title track, which I assume is a completely new song, is no less impressive, albeit a bit more varied. At first, it’s a wild ride, with the saxophone struggling not to be thrown out of the saddle by the drums’ permanent changes of direction. A little later, it segues into a much calmer middle section, dominated by sustained tones and reminiscent of the melancholy ballads of 70’s King Crimson. Towards the end, of course, the mayhem returns.
Since listening to this record is a lot more fun than reading a track-by-track retelling of it, I’ll leave it at that; that being said, Zwimbarrac Khafzavavrapp (how’s that for a song title?) probably deserves special mention. Originally written for the Asphalt Orchestra, an avant-garde marching band performing songs by artists as disparate as Björk, the Pixies or Meshuggah, it’s the longest and most nuanced track here, shifting from powerful marching rhythms to exuberant melodicism in the blink of an eye. To make a long story short, this is a great record, and I think the “post-bass” Ruins have never sounded this vital before. Here’s hoping that Ono, whose contributions throughout really are amazing, will stay for the long haul.
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