Ruins – Tzomborgha

Another ancient review never published.

Ruins. How on Earth could this band actually exist? This is a band made up of a bassist and a drummer, and yet, there’s clearly a guitarist. Isn’t there? No there isn’t, that’s the bassist. And he’s playing a bassline at the same time. Through the ingenious use of various effects and some bass peddles, combined of course with stunning musical ability, the bassist seems to be able to play two completely often contradictory guitar/bass parts simultaneously.

Tzomborgha is the only Ruins album I have, thanks to them being nearly impossible to acquire in the UK. Fortunately, Mike Patton released this one on Ipecac making it easily available.

But what does it actually sound like? Well, the nearest comparison I can come up with is a cross between Mahavishnu Orchestra and Magma. Magma are famed for their long almost operatic jazz rock compositisions, and their use of a made-up language for vocals. While Ruins songs seem to be much shorter than Magma’s LP-length epics, they are no less musically complex. In fact, Ruins sound like several 30 minute Magma epics being condensed simultaneously into a single three minute song. It is also notable that they perform vocally in a made-up nonsense language of yelps and warbles. Instrumentally, they have the crunch and bite of John McLaughlin’s double-neck Mahavishnu Orchestra guitar tone. Fittingly they perform a medley of Mahavishnu Orchestra on this album, but we’ll get to that later.

First off, it has to be said that Yoshida Tatsuya is, compositionally, an absolute madman. He seems to be writing music that is impossibly confusing and constructed without any sense of being playable. And yet, somehow, he and BASSIST perform it to perfection. And even more astonishingly, the songs are catchy and full of melodic hooks. Every note, every hit with absolute precision, despite many of these tracks lacking a definable beginning or ending, let alone any signposts throughout to keep them on track. And yet, there are definite recurring musical themes and motifs that do tie these songs into a loose sense of cohesion.

There’s no point doing my usual amateurish track by track analysis, because the titles are in their made-up language and mostly unpronouncable. What is useful to note, are several clear references to classic progressive rock artists sewn into the very fabric of the music. Wahnzemvergg starts off as you would expect, but then suddenly shifts to a more melodic airy section very clearly inspired by Yes’ “On the Silent Wings of Freedom”. Zajyu also pokes well-meaning fun at the openings to Yes’ “Close to the Edge” and Emerson Lake & Palmer’s “Tarkus”.

The two medleys at the end are Black Sabbath and Mahavishnu Orchestra. The Black Sabbath one is amusing and impressive, cramming a vast number of classics into one short stretch and playing them at a far faster tempo than Black Sabbath should normally be played at. As for the Mahavishnu, you have to hand it to these guys when the BASSIST manages to play so many of the incredibly complex double-necked guitar, bass, keyboard and violin parts without pause for breath.

Truly, this is a band beyond the understanding of mere humans.

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