Maestro of Minimal
It seems that nowadays, the majority of people want music to be lush, transcendent and enigmatic at all times. Thus, when a record like the self-titled Vex Ruffin hits their ears, it might be a little disconcerting. It’s unashamedly direct with a wiry and minimal feel. The production is sparse, and the vocals stay within the monotone realm for basically the whole album. However, the irony here, of course, is that when a record seems to go such great lengths to be unassuming, it actually proves to be quite intriguing.
With each song offering a lyric set that nary surpasses a couple sentences, Ruffin makes all these elements work. It’s almost a Ramones-style approach where a song like “Down in the Basement” (a very Ramones-like subject to boot) whose lyrical content offers, “Down in the basement / Picking your brain / Nothing to do / It’s such a shame.” Yet the untrained maraca and thudding wood block beat just give the vocals a certain backing charm that entices you to hum the unremarkable melody hours later.
There is range to the record, however, as the beautiful and serene lament, “Ruined” displays, and though the minimalism is still present, it is a wonderful close to the album. On the same token, the quirky noisemaker “Won Day” provides a jittery glimpse to the other side of the spectrum. In the context of the album, they’re polar opposites, but as companion pieces for the record, they complement each other well.
An interesting narrative at play is how Ruffin balances positive and negative moods throughout the album. Even a glimpse of the song titles: “Prime of my Life” and “It Will Come” against “Hard on Myself” and “Forget It.” He’ll play the dichotomies against each other, as in the latter’s case, where circus-tinted new wave organs power the dour, longing vocal, which adds another layer of charm to these unique compositions.
This is not really an indie record or a hip-hop record, or anything you could any put any significantly recognizable label on, but that’s just absolutely perfect if you like music that defies classification, or especially if you are the one with wherewithal to make it.