Ruiz! – Mind Games

Not every artist can say they’ve invented a genre. But then, not every artist has the sort of capacity for outside of the box thinking that led multi-instrumentalist Ruiz! to combine a multitude that of aesthetics that, on paper at least, really shouldn’t work as well they do.

That doesn’t mean to say that genres which Ruiz! combines are jarring, far from it. Yet the likes of ‘60s rock’n’roll, electronica, psych, and dark alternative rock all harbour their own bold and brash idiosyncrasies that, when paired together, might well compete for attention.

And that is the case on those rare moments where Mind Games stumbles. They’re few and far between though. For the most part it’s a record that succeeds in being brilliantly batshit crazy, merging its myriad styles and aesthetics into a twisted and turbulent offering that veers from the frothy and poppy (“April-Mae”, “Surf Again #2”), to the chaotic and anarchic (“Please Baby Please”, “Planet Psych”).

That being said, Mind Games predictably isn’t an easy listen. Recorded and worked upon across 2020, it’s the sound of uncertainty and insecurity manifested across 13 tracks. The aforementioned “Please Baby Please” for instance is a dark, brooding ominous affair, built around a rattling bass and haunted vocal line, it’s almost as if Nick Cave took some acid and decided to release a post-punk single.

That being said however, there’s also moments of optimism at play here too. “So Beautiful” fizzes and pops whilst harking back to ‘90s alternative rock perfectly, while “Let the Sun Shine” feels effervescent and fractured in true Ruiz! style, though retains a sense of upbeat optimism that continues into album closer “Planet Psych”.

While it goes without saying the sheer eclecticism of “Mind Games” won’t be for everyone, it’s a testament to Ruiz! a musician that he combines and contorts all manner of influences into a cohesive and moreish record.

That it seems to embody the emotional rollercoaster of 2020, without ever referencing things directly is a further testament, not just to Ruiz! as a songwriter, but also to the overarching influence of the pandemic and it’s various lockdowns. If more of the albums that come from Covid19 sound like this though, we’re on to a winner.