The idea of pairing the brilliant and meticulously focused pianist Satoko Fujii with the unhinged energy of Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida might seem incongruous, but the two actually have a history. In 2004, they formed a short-lived duo, Toh-Kichi, which they occasionally resurrected over the years, culminating in a brief Japanese tour and a 2019 album, Baikamo – streaming at Bandcamp – with compositions by both members. It’s synergistic, it’s a lot of fun and it’s also pretty intense.
Essentially, it’s a theme and variations interrupted by miniatures which run the gamut from crazed, to simple and emphatic, to hypnotically circling and sometimes ridiculously funny. This is just about the loudest album Fujii has ever made, but it’s rich with her signature melodicism, and Yoshida turns out to be a strong tunesmith in his own right.
After a cacaphonous intro, Fujii gets down to business with the stern, emphatic, catchy Rolling Down, Yoshida locked in on her clustering and then insistent attack. Her punk rock Messiaen climb afterward is a hoot; then the duo bring the song full circle.
The two have wry lockstep fun with the tricky, staccato rhythms of the Radiohead-ish No Reflection, Yoshida indulging in some tongue-in-cheek stadium rock exuberance before Fujii brings the clouds to hover ominously.
Yoshida clusters and Fujii circles in the album’s title track, with some of the pianist’s most deliciously glittering phantasmagoria of recent years. The best of Yoshida’s pieces here is Aspherical Dance, another catchy number that follows a suspensefully climbing trajectory to an anti-coda that’s too good to give away.
The two lighten the stark, heroic intensity of the album’s first theme in Laughing Birds without losing any relentless drive. The unpronounceable number afrer that signals a return to circling, emphatic riffs, following an atmospheric intro; the heavy metal outro is a trip.
The two take the heroic theme further into disquiet, chaos and back in Front Line, with a creepy, marionettish Fujii solo. They keep the evil music-box sonics going in the miniature after that, then in Climber’s High they spin and stomp around with the main theme again. The next-to-last track is a mashup of circular grimness and stop-and-start rhythms. The two close with the menacingly vast, windswept soundscape Ice Age, a rare opportunity to hear Fujii on vocals.