Label: Sub Pop
Catalog #: 70766
New Zealand’s The Ruby Suns formed in Auckland in 2004, under the somewhat longer and inarguably more rhyming name Ryan McPhun and The Ruby Suns. The band is now shortly, sweetly and simply called The Ruby Suns, and principal Ruby Sun Ryan McPhun is currently and ably abetted by Amee Robinson and Imogen Taylor. Although New Zealand is somewhat isolated in the southern most part of the Pacific Ocean, Ryan has remained true to his buccaneer instinct. He and his Dictaphone (portable tape recorder) have ventured into the wilds of Africa, the ancient monasteries of Thailand, and the haunting landscapes that surround his everyday. Recorded almost entirely in McPhun’s basement, Sea Lion’s melodic musings found inspiration in the natural world and his travels within it. “Tane Mahuta,” sung entirely in Māori, is an indigenous-sounding ode to the great Waipoua forest near Auckland and “Adventure Tour” tells a tale of a memorable drive through New Zealand’s South Island. An African influence also exerts a strong presence in the album (“Kenya Dig It?” being the most obvious). Not only was he struck by the people (“Ole Rinka” is about a man he met in the Maasai Mara National Reserve), but he was also enamored of the music, especially Kenyan traditional music and modern day hip-hop. The depth and breadth of the Ruby Suns’ songs has, no surprise, grown dramatically since their 2005 self-titled debut. The epic Sea Lion was intended to be a world music album, but reverb and psychedelic pop crept in to create a unique mixture of exotic sounds, accomplished with an impressive array of instruments—from steel-string ukulele to djembe drums to pots and pans, all set upon a cozy cushion of synths and cassette samples.
Q&A with The Ruby Suns in The Fader
Drowned in Sound review of Sea Lion
Pitchfork ‘Best New Music’ review of Sea Lion