Japan's ROVO features a veritable all-star cast of some of the most adventurous instrumentalists from that country's experimental rock scene, including violinist Katsui Yuji, Boredoms guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto, and frequent Otomo Yoshihide collaborator, drummer Yoshigaki Yasuhiro. The band specializes in an energetic form of post-rock, emphasizing improvisation and using subtle electronic touches to create a spacy ambience. Given the members' respective pedigrees, that ROVO is an incredible live act should surprise no one. Tzadik's issue of two July 2001 shows at the New York City experimental music club Tonic captures the band performing pieces from all of their prior studio releases, with the exception of 2000's Pyramid. Also included is a version of Yamamoto's lengthy "Sinno," originally released as half of a split CD with Date Course Pentagon Royal Garden. The sound quality on Tonic 2001 is excellent, and the performances are typically lively. In fact, if anything, Tonic 2001 delivers too much of a good thing. Although ROVO have produced much exciting music since their 1998 debut, they tend to stick closely to an eccentric jam-band formula. One can generally count on a basic riff played by Yuji over an up-tempo, percussive groove and plenty of space for improvisation. Tonic 2001 is hardly lacking in inspired playing, but after almost two hours of music, the songs seem a bit interchangeable. "Sukhna" takes its time with a cyclical violin line and precise but restrained drumming before exploding into a fiery climax wherein Yuji delivers rapid-fire lines and the guitar and bass dance around one another in kinetic counterpoint. Likewise, "Sunspot" begins as a gentle exposition of soft, bright percussive ting and almost offhanded guitar asides from Yamamoto. Yuji enters a few minutes later, and gradually the band builds into a churning, swirling heavy vamp over which Yuji again delivers furious solo figures. Each song, taken on its own, is a model of efficient, passionate group interaction -- the only question is whether or not listeners will be able to match ROVO's endurance.
AllMusic Review by Dominique Leone
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2