The Ruby Suns

Sea Lion

There’s something haphazard and sloppy to the work of artists who cut-and-paste their pop with field recordings. Ryan McPhun of New Zealand’s The Ruby Suns has traveled everywhere from Africa to Thailand, Dictaphone in hand, taping the chatter and cadences of many native peoples. But when he incorporates field recordings into his psychedelic pop on Sea Lion, it sounds ever calculated and purposeful. The footsteps in the opener “Blue Penguin” are significant: the listener is about to embark on a globe-spanning journey. Halfway through “Morning Sun” there’s a snippet of what sounds like rhythmic Maasai harmonies, a preview to the more homespun rhythms McPhun later unleashes: a synthetic, dance-pop shamble akin to ABC or the Human League. The caprioling “Tane Mahuta” might be the worldliest pop song one will indulge in this year. Sung in the New Zealand native language of Maori (and sounding like an up-tempo, cushioned version of the chants used during the haka), the track also approximates boozy New Orleans jazz and Spanish guitar. Sea Lion is pop bricolage at its finest, an album that strokes countless genres, betrays its creator’s affinity for captured sound, and endlessly enchants.