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Ruins - Symphonica  CD (album) cover





3.93 | 47 ratings

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4 stars Symphonica sees Ruins mainman Yoshida Tatsuya revisiting a selection of pieces from the notorious bass and drums duo's first decade or so of existence and reworking them with an expanded line up, including a keyboard player and two female vocalists. The keyboard player also plays in another of Yoshida's bands, Koenji Hyaekki, which he describes as the Japanese Magma, while the bass duties are in the extremely capable hands of Sasaki Hisashi, Ruins' fourth bassist and Yoshida's best sparring partner to date. The idea may seem a little strange, given that Ruins' manic sound owes at least as much to hardcore punk as to prog, but from the outset Yoshida has written all of Ruins' pieces as musical scores, and this selection demonstrates just how strong his compositional gift is.

Symphonica is a highly apt title for this collection, as keyboard man Oguchi Kenichi adds layers of vintage organ and synthesiser sounds to Yoshida's compositions - where Magma's defining keyboard sound was jazzy Fender Rhodes piano, this album's keyboard sounds mainly recall the symphonic maestros of the 70s - think Emerson, Wakeman, Banks and Bardens and you'll have a good idea of the sound (though not necessarily the style). The pieces themselves are mostly taken at a slower tempo and are extended, although they are largely faithful to the original scores. The most radically altered piece is probably Infect, from the first Ruins album. Here it lasts almost twice as long as the original, and the introduction is played on a church organ. The original was one of Ruins slower pieces, and here it is slowed down further with a lengthy duet between Yoshida and one of the female vocalists, underpinned by some discreet keyboards. This is possibly the most Zeuhl moment in the whole collection, and transforms what was a low pitched, threatening rumble into a thing of exotic alien beauty. Elsewhere the insanely catchy riff of Praha in Spring gives Kenichi the opportunity to lay down a high speed synth line that would give Emerson a run for his money, while the female vocalists do a good job of replicating Stella Vander and her angelic choir.

Symphonica blends Zeuhl and symphonic prog sounds in the way that Machine and the Synergetic Nuts blend fusion and Canterbury sounds, and should appeal to anyone who enjoys Japanese prog. Some of Ruins' characteristic idiosyncracies are still present - compositions are full of unexpected twists and turns, while the time signature rarely stays constant for more than half a dozen bars - but this is the Ruins album that you can play without clearing the room in 20 seconds flat. If you've ever wanted to dip a toe into the amazing Japanese prog scene, this is an excellent place to start.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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