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Ruiz! Mind Games

On his debut solo LP, (Hugh) Ruiz! dares to don all black at the beach, pairing goth with surf in the most bewildering fashion statement of the summer.

Released: 2 July 2021
Mind Games

From the propulsive opening of ‘A Certain Direction’, Mind Games sets down its mission statement. A chaotic assortment of Canned kraut grooves, Link Wray guitar rumbles and reversed strings plucked straight from ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ illuminates Ruiz’s taste for vintage sounds, a recipe finalised by vocal harmonies channelling the breezy nonchalance of the Beach Boys.

It may seem impolite to talk of such seminal artists in the face of Ruiz’s own creations, but they’re essential in communicating his effortless ability to mould the disparate sounds of his childhood into a freakish amalgam of his very own.

Ruiz chants “Close your eyes / Feel the breeze” on ‘Blue Mediterranean’, offering tranquil respite between storms of gloomy guitar and sullen lyricism. Toy-like synths play joyful Yellow Magic Orchestra-style bleeps in ‘Flying’, contrasting with the Rowland S. Howard gothicisms of ‘Please Baby Please’.

Album closer ‘Planet Psyche’ goes for the high score, plotting a blistering course through surf, funk, goth, prog, kraut, psych and back again. These lyrical and musical dichotomies highlight the stress and repose of living in a world in flux, puzzled together by a consistent knack for effective experimentation.

With these tracks acting as Ruiz’s crowing jewels, songs like the drowsy ‘Surf Again #2’ and the Stranglers-esque organ-tinged ‘Morning’ fall short of the same alchemical spirit present in previously named tracks, offering derivative surf tunes scraped from the bowels of some Pet Sounds offshoot.

But despite this lull, Mind Games proves to be an engaging project. Written, performed and produced by Ruiz himself in the midst of a global pandemic, this album is a testament to the power of an undiluted mind with enough ideas to fill an entire discography.