Pedro Ruy-Blas ‘Cyber Dolores’ LP/CD (Jazzaggression) 3/5

Jazzaggression have released a compilation of electronic jazz by Spanish artist, Pedro Ruy-Blas, culled from home studio recordings dating from the 80s and 90s. During this period Ruy-Blas set himself up with then state of the art midi and sequencing equipment to record his music in a new way, he aimed to revisit and expand upon themes already explored in his days with 70s fusion band Dolores, hence the title of this collection Cyber Dolores. The latest technology offered the freedom to work from a home studio environment and experiment with the possibilities of creating organically textured music with digital equipment. All instrumentation on the record is by Ruy-Blas himself.

No dates for the tracks were provided, so it was fun trying to guess how early in the 80s and how late in the 90s each track originates from. As a new listener to the sound of the original 70s Dolores I enjoyed the mellow and organic Return to Forever feel of the tunes. That music is very much part of its time but in a classic rather than dated way. The later music of Pedro Ruy-Blas is also very much locked in the era it was created partly due to its reliance on early-ish digital equipment. Whether it sounds okay to twenty-first-century ears is open to debate. On the whole, he seems to have succeeded in his aim to create organic and natural sounds and textures in his music though there were a couple of tunes I struggled with which may be there for the connoisseur only.

The compilation begins with the beautifully subtle ‘Terraza’, which is so smooth it could be the backing track from a West Coast yacht rock supergroup and is also a real earworm. I listened in the evening and awoke with it echoing around in my head the following morning. Neat motifs step up and down the harmonic scale, expansively shifting and echoing each other in repeated phrases. Sax and electric piano moods accompany a Latin rhythm giving a slick late-70s feel. A very satisfying opening track.

‘Bahia De Lavapies’ offers reminders of the earlier Dolores once we move through the soulful R&B intro and into Ruy-Blas’ speciality, a retro scat vocal – wonderful.

‘Morphy’s Rumba’ is a contender for the most jazz track on the album with a discordant piano theme and a post-bop sax tone nicely mixed with echoes of the Hammond organ. ‘From Resting to Ibiza’ also gives us a jazz workout with moments of genuine intensity and a distinctive Brecker Brothers flavour. This is born from another smooth intro building to a funky strut and interwoven with some vaguely Moorish keyboard textures.

‘Inconstantly Lovely Day’ is a great repost to the Bill Withers song and sees an eclectic mix of styles and motifs, the track begins with electronics reminiscent of gamelan music, shifting into an ambient film score territory before sax and choral music are met with either part of the choral phrase run backwards or a call to prayer, I couldn’t quite make out which, but I had the feeling this is where East meets West in the album. Probably the most intriguing track on this compilation.

‘Cruzando El Estrecho’ and ‘Pan De Pueblo’, the last couple of tracks, I found somewhat anticlimactic, the first suffering from quite dated and gratuitous studio effects and the latter lacking in personality compared to earlier parts of the compilation.

Overall some seriously decent pieces of studio work, a bit uneven in places, but then that’s the nature of experiments. A must-have for Dolores and Ruy-Blas fans and worth a listen for the rest of us, especially if it leads us further back into his catalogue.

James Read