So I’m going along listening to this Ipecac album by Sax Ruins. And it’s made up of multi-tracked sax and frenetic, also-possibly-multi-tracked-but-I doubt-it drums. And it’s got these crazy track names like “Czerudmuntzail” and “Djubatczegromm.” And the compositional style is one of very intricate melodic runs, often involving a lot of parallel movements, complex harmonies, and stop-and-start rhythms. And I think, man, this reminds me of Ruins’ 2002 release Tzomborgha, also on Ipecac. Cuz that has the same compositional style, but its instrumentation was bass and drums. Huynh, that’s funny…
And it never even dawned on me until I looked it up that they both had Ruins in their name and, of course, Sax is just acting as a modifier here, it’s Ruins but with Sax. The drummer’s the same guy, he just swapped out his bassist for a sax player. Duh.
So this is awesome, and I don’t really feel like tying everything together, so some thoughts….
If you’re gonna do really frenetic, free jazz stuff like this, you’d better be hella virtuosic. Like, if you’re going to be this abrasive and break this many rules, you’d better know what you’re doing, both compositionally and performatively. And they do.
The first thing about this that is hardest to love are the really free, squawky parts. And they almost treat the first track or three as a weeder-out class in college. They bring the most abrasive stuff right up front, as if to say, “This is what we do. If you don’t like this, stay away.” It fades into still-abrasive-but-much-more-palatable-and-structured stuff later in the album.
The second thing that’s hard to love is all the parallel movement. What this means is that the multi-tracked saxes are all playing the same exact melodies just at different intervals. It sounds to me that it’s even intervals like perfect octaves and fifths. Having two voices move the same amount in the same direction when they are at a perfect fifth or octave apart is a big no-no in traditional multi-part composition. It is, of course, a rule that should be broken and is often. So much so that we hardly even think about it now. But when you have a band doing basically just that for an entire album, the effect gets a little tiresome and you start to realize why it’s a “rule.” Maybe it’s intentional…keeping the contrapuntal action minimal (non-existent) while the rest of the album overloads you with complexity.
You might expect that hearing an entire album of just squealing sax and drums would get fatiguing, but it only does just a little bit. They’re able to keep it interesting enough that you don’t really mind the monochromaticism of it.
Very stimulating, very interesting, really rocking. Cool album.
– “Pallaschtom,” “Zworrisdeh,” “Komnigriss,” “Gravestone,” “Epigonen,” “Pig Brag Crack,” “Yawiquo”
– “Korromda Peimm,” Zuma Taksim,” “Hydereomastgroningem,” “Czerudmuntzail,” “Snare,” “Nivaftopoftz,” “Znohjmo,” “Bupphairodazz,” “Djubatczegromm”
Song Notes: After the jump
- Korromda Peimm – Starts with a very offensive inoffensive song. It’s offensive in that it’s on offense. I.e., hard to listen to. But it’s inoffensive in that, while it’s not that good, I can’t really get worked up over it being bad. Definitely an odd choice for a first track…seems to be serving the purpose of scaring away listeners as it’s one of the most abrasive, least melodic, tracks on a very abrasive album. Not only is it an odd choice for a first track, it’s an odd choice for inclusion on an album with quite a few good tracks on it.
- Zurna Taksim – Now here we start to get some melody. Still just kind of sits around some crazy loud punctuating rhythms, but it’s still a respite from the last track. Only like fifty seconds long.
- Hydereomastgroningem – Only 1:27.
- Czerudmuntzail – Odd meter? flute in here is pretty sweet. There’s some odd chicken-clucking sounds in there, too. That repeated droney head part goes on way too long near the end.
- Snare – It’s like one note with various levels of muting applied. Cool.
- Pallaschtom – Some cool parts.
- Zworrisdeh – The title makes me think of Morris Day, as in And The Time. Starts off so awesome. 5:26, so long for this album. Snare sound is awesome.
- Komnigriss – The first half is a little awkward, but I think it works and it’s a full track.
- Nivaftopoftz – 1:14
- Gravestone –
- Znohjmo – 2:53
- Bupphairodazz – Love how big this gets about 2/3 of the way through. Almost bumps it up to full.
- Epigonen – Great start.
- Pig Brag Crack – Goes like big band Johnny Carson at about the one minute mark.
- Djubatczegromm –
- Yawiquo – Probably the most complete “song” on the record.