Sax Ruins: Blimmguass

[18 April 2014]

By Chris Conaton

Ruins is a long-running avant garde Japanese rock band that has traditionally consisted of drummer Tatsuya Yoshida and a bass player. But Yoshida’s compositions are so technical and weird that he’s had a hard time holding onto a bassist. He seems to have found a kindred spirit in equally experimental saxophone player Ryoko Ono, though. Blimmguass is the second album from Sax Ruins, in which Yoshida and Ono recast existing Ruins songs for drums and saxophone as well as improvise new material.

Blimmguass takes an approach that deftly combines noise rock with a bedrock of tuneful harmony. Ono frequently uses a harmonizer to sound like an entire saxophone section, and then honks wildly over that while Yoshida drives the songs with his powerful, complex drumming. The end result resembles a simultaneously intriguing and unholy combination of free jazz and heavy metal. Sax Ruins is not for the faint of heart, but Yoshida’s creativity and Ono’s ear for melodic underpinnings gives the pieces a center for listeners to focus on. These lengthy performances are fascinating but they can also be fatiguing. The four improvisations at the end of the album are notable for their short length, but also for how different they sound. The melodic bits are mostly gone from Ono’s playing, and Yoshida is so much looser when doing improv that he almost sounds like a different drummer. Intentionally or not, it’s a great illustration of how much arranging work goes into the main compositions of Blimmguass.

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