On Fight Softly, The Ruby Suns leader Ryan McPhun goes it alone, writing, performing and producing these 10 songs virtually solo.
Sadly, along with his band, he's abandoned most of the elements which made their previous records such fascinating diversions. With The Ruby Suns and Sea Lion, he established the band as something akin to the New Zealand equivalent of Vampire Weekend, blending psych-pop smarts with unusual world-music influences – in the Suns' case, ranging from Kenyan guitar grooves to Polynesian folk and Brazilian tropicalia, with a substantial helping of Brian Wilson's enigmatic pop genius thrown in. But here he seems to have jettisoned the intriguing instrumental palette which once incorporated marimba, horns, ukelele, guitar, organ and sleigh bells, in favour of a stripped-down techno sound which cramps them into claustrophobic keyboard loops. The throbbing keyboard fantasia of "Sun Lake Rinsed" gives way to the itchy industrial-electro loop of "Mingus And Pike", and that in turn to the incessant twitch'n'bounce of "Cinco", but none of them has the magical appeal of earlier successes such as "Maasai Mara"and "Oh, Mojave" and "Remember", with the exception of "Dusty fruit". A disappointing change of direction.
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