Top 20 Releases of 2013: No.12 – Jesse Ruins – A Film

Since the breakout success of the sweeping, hallucinatory Dream Analysis, Jesse Ruins have been one of the hottest bands in the Japanese indie scene, and one of the few to make any real impact overseas. With Dream Analysis now a distant memory, the group, centred around main songwriter and producer Nobuyuki Sakuma, has come up with a full length album that shows a growing maturity, confidence and musical cohesion

Laura is Fading kicks the album off in a familiar way, with the driving rhythm, dreamlike vocals and waves of synths a sound that still anchors the group’s musical identity. But A Film is more than a honing of what we already know Jesse Ruins can do: it’s a development of that sound into an album context, drawing on Sakuma’s cinematic obsessions to work it into a wider, abstract musical narrative with ebbs, flows, a climax and a resolution.

One way Sakuma seems to have diversified the sound is by drawing on material from his darker, more industrial Cold Name side project. Sharon is Frozen is built around a brutal, monotonous EBM synth pulse like DAF at their most unforgiving, with Nah’s vocals emotionlessly intoning the indistinct lyrics. Echoes of an earlier generation of German electronic rock can be heard in the Kraftwerkian chimes that run through Fausta, and in more subtle ways, these more mechanical, industrial elements infuse more typically Jesse Ruins-style songs like Leonard’s Polaroid & Memo (Hera Type2).

And like a good film soundtrack, those familiar elements keep returning, in part or in whole, throughout the album: to soaring effect on the centrepiece track Sleepless in Tokyo, climactic effect on The Red Part of the Thin Line, disconcerting effect on Before Dawn, where the chiming synth melody os almost drowned out by the ruthless bass wobble. A Film closes with Valentine at 2am, either a sweet lullaby or the soundtrack to waking gently from a night of turbulent dreams, but in any case a perfect coda to a fine album from a band who keep growing in stature.

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