Ruins – Refusal Fossil (1997 edition)

3 out of 5

Label: Skin Graft

Produced by: Jim O’Rourke (mastered by)

The kickoff title track of Refusal Fossil is kinda sorta all you need to know: massive thumps of fuzzy prog bass and runs of drum fills, all cut up and stop-started with bits of post-rock stomp, and Tatsuya Yoshida’s mixed brand of chanting and guttural bleats and shouted “lyrics,” counterpointing that stop-and-starting. Fans of angular post-rock will be happy, but there’s still a learning curve to get on Ruins’ wavelength, maybe especially on this album, which leans more towards songs than an album construction.

The first few tracks, mostly getting to or exceeding the three-minute mark, run together pretty well, but thereafter we’re fairly mixed on longer and shorter songs, and the latter ones are especially experimental feeling; less opportunity to find the groove. So you sort of have to give the album a dry run first, and set your expectations to moment-by-moment wows, and then it becomes much more enjoyable fare. Without that – at least for me – it’s almost too disjointed to get into, and the breaks for some distinct songs and grooves complicate that more than give the ears a rest, as it’s suddenly confusing what you’re listening to when Yoshida and bassist Sasaki Hisashi temporarily go all rhythmic and structured.

It can also be helpful to separate the included live tracks from the studio ones, as they’re of a slightly different vibe. Firstly thanks to the mix, which doesn’t favor the bass as much, and then due to the presence of Kikuchi Naruyoshi’s horn for a few tracks, encouraging a free-wheeling, Flying Luttenbachers-esque momentum, and then also Emi Eleonola’s punked out vocals on one song.

In other words, Refusal Fossil is very piecemeal; initial attempts to settle into a flow are almost purposefully defeated by the up and down pacing and chopped up song constructions. However, once you get a feel for this, it stops feeling as brash and becomes more fun, the concluding set of live songs even encouraging that as proof of how the group thrives on its intensity and sense of onslaught.