I wrote about Stones Throw's plunge into the cassette business in this post, and now they've issued Vex Ruffin's first full-length* as a cassette-only release (I also wrote about an upcoming label documentary here). I've always liked the way the L.A. imprint toggles between funk, hip-hop, and out-there pop stuff, and Ruffin, a UPS delivery driver by day, tosses his hat in the latter ring.
Ruffin represents Peanut Butter Wolf's first signing to spring from an unsolicited demo. Ruffin sent the label founder 300 songs, and 10 ended up on this tape. Unlike the groove-oriented material that tends to dominate their discography, Ruffin gravitates more towards the primitive sounds to emerge from the Lower East Side and industrial Britain—Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds—in the 1980s than anything going on in California today (with the exception of Oakland's Soft Moon). It's like he's recreated a post-punk past in his Chino bedroom, resulting in a low-budget, one-man take on Joy Division, Bauhaus, and Suicide.
* Stones Throw describes it as an EP, but it feels more like a long-player to me.
Over a rickety drum beat and wobbly bass, he chants, declaims, and repeats the same lines over and over again in a controlled monotone, i.e. "The walls are caving in...my heart...release...release...release"). On occasion, elements of surf guitar and underwater brass add a little tropical light to the suburban darkness. Depending on your perspective, it's either hypnotic or enervating. As a fan of minimalists like Young Marble Giants and LiliPUT, it definitely works for me.
To date, Ruffin's songs have appeared on HBO's Girls and in the film Lola Versus. Further, guitarist Geoff Barrow (Portishead, BEAK>) has anointed "I'm creative" his "tune of the year"...so it's too bad the track doesn't appear on Same Thing Tomorrow, but I hope his enthusiasm leads to a collaboration between the two.
From Ruffin's Crash Course EP (Stones Throw, 2011).
Same Thing Tomorrow is out now on Stone's Throw (release date: Oct 31). Next up: a split LP with label colleague James Pants and his official full-length debut.