Ruins | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The long-running Japanese duo Ruins--drummer and composer Yoshida Tatsuya and a series of bassists, most recently Sasaki Hisashi--burns the fat out of 70s progressive rock until all that's left is a chewy, blackened crust. They're terrifyingly tight even at warp speed, barking and crooning nonsense words through headset mikes as they hammer out impossible chains of number-crunching riffs. They blast through tortuous, near-random tone rows in unison, like video-game whizzes on the first level of Doom; their greatest song, "B.U.G." (available on the 1990 Shimmy Disc album Stonehenge), slows all the way down for a "bridge" but then just wallops a single note over and over like an assembly-line robot. Last year's Symphonica (Tzadik) decked out a handful of older compositions in Magma-esque splendor, adding keyboards and two wailing divas, but the music didn't benefit from that treatment--the Ruins' greatest strength is their willingness to sound abrupt and grubby. (I've seen Sasaki break two of his six strings in a single set--these are bass strings, remember--and keep going without replacing either one.) When the band's just Yoshida and Sasaki, as at this show, it's a kick to watch--you'll wonder which one has the brain that's controlling all four hands. And their favorite encore is a party-trick medley that strings together blurts from several dozen prog-rock classics and obscurities, insane time changes and all, in three minutes flat. Opening is Mainliner, a screaming acid-freakout power trio fronted by High Rise bassist (and frequent Yoshida collaborator) Asahito Nanjo; their 15-minute ultradistorted psychedelic jams ought to blow the speaker stacks a few new holes. Saturday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. DOUGLAS WOLK

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