The Ruby Suns, if you didn’t know, are the brainchild of Californian born wanderer Ryan McPhun; after settling down in New Zealand and constructing the critically acclaimed travelogue of a record that was 2008′s Sea Lion, McPhun has taken an about turn away from tribal drums and tucked away mysticism into terrain that is simultaneously bigger, brighter and poppier yet somehow more inward looking.
What is immediately apparent upon listening to Fight Softly is that the production is chunkier and shinier than before and McPhun’s increased use of electronics means that Animal Collective comparisons are somewhat inevitable; Cranberry for instance finds a sense of bliss in its repetition and although these comparisons are valid, the clinging sometimes cloying paranoia of AC is replaced here with an overriding sense of joy.
Those familiar with The Ruby Suns catalogue will be aware that one of the great strengths of their records is the ability to expertly build a track; here the inviting synthetic shuffle of ‘Mingus and Pike’ evolves into something a whole lot more euphoric than it’s humble low key beginnings. ’Dusty Fruit’ is possibly the catchiest thing on the record and manages the collision between world music rhythms and electronica admirably. However not every attempt is so successful; ‘Haunted House’ is plagued with some frankly embarrassing squelches and, lacking in direction it ends up coming off like a overly-stoned Dirty Projectors.
While previous albums have been dominated by a sense of awe and wonder at the natural world, Fight Softly certainly seems a less innocent and more knowing record. However there is a sense of playfulness that was perhaps not present on McPhun’s more abstract work, and while this focus is welcome, the downside is a few less of those totally transcendent moments when you’re not sure what the fuck just happened.