Punk is theoretically about nonconformity and freedom, so it’s curious that much of it follows a common musical formula; there’s nothing nonconformist about playing three chords loud and fast while barking in monotone. On the other hand, much jazz is played with such independence and freedom, it’s curious that most of it inspires nothing more than head-bobbing and finger-snapping, instead of, say, a mosh pit. Sax Ruins, the new project from Ruins drummer-frontman Tatsuya Yoshida, attempts to reconcile these shortcomings, creating a sort of iconoclastic big-band noise-punk that’s maddeningly complex and hypnotically unrestrained. Formed when alto-saxophonist Ono Ryoko (of Ryorchestra) joined Yoshida to play Ruins songs live, Sax Ruins is a chaotic parade of reed-and-drum jams, none individually memorable or accessible. The duo’s debut album, Yawiquo, is a jabberwocky of seemingly random time-signature changes and abrupt tempo shifts; the two don’t play their instruments as much as beat you viciously with them. Those that can survive the disorienting barrage are compensated with hidden classical elements and moments of unshackled expression and unexpected drama—music ultimately more free than most jazz or punk.
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