In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Minneapolis duo Elite Gymnastics claimed they took inspiration from Korean pop because Western music was obsessed with the past. Yet “Intro 1” and “Intro 2” to Ruin– which is actually a two-volume repackaging of EPs released in June, with two different incarnations of each song title– harness the recognizable moody piano tinkles and sparkly synths of early ‘90s easy-listening. Ruin, both 1 and 2, is an amalgamation of techno, New Wave, dub, and yes, the oft-derided chillwave. Trends are inescapably circular, after all; to Elite Gymnastics’ credit, they sample but ultimately re-appropriate a wide variety of genres from the early ‘90s to the early ‘00s.
“Omamori”, for example, opens like nu-gaze enthusiasts Big Pink with distorted guitars and thick, echoing beats. You can also hear shoegaze influences on “Little Things”, which hews to a New Wave rhythm with fuzzy guitars melting into steadily chugging beats. “Here, In Heaven”, on the other hand, avoids strict definition: Elite Gymnastics layer vocal samples beneath the band’s own indiscernible, monstrously distorted lyrics riding a Paul Oakenfold jungle beat. The similarly trance-like (and named) “So Close To Paradise” builds solely on beats and breathy, reverberating vocals, which foreshadows Ruin 2, the elegant dub counterpoint to Ruin 1.
Ruin 2’s inclusion nods to reggae’s beginnings, when dub singles were released before their counterparts. The B-side’s slower, deeper beats—formerly couched in Side A’s synth show—reveal Elite Gymnastics’ hip-hop influences. On “Here, In Heaven 2”, sluggish negative space replaces synthesizers, unearthing the song’s ghostly, handclap-driven skeleton. Now it becomes more audible and even physical– the formerly drowned-out beat structures, the ethereal wailing, and now Auto-tuned vocals. Elite Gymnastics might not entirely eschew the past, but the way they recombine sounds and re-organize structures is definitely forward-thinking.