03 August, 2008

Out of the frying pan, and into the Mojave

Seasonal music transitions can be just as important as seasonal clothing transitions. What would happen if I continued to listen to my Christmas music in June, July, and August? It would get old really fast, and would probably lose some its seasonal charm to my inappropriate listening habits. Alternately, if I replayed Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" before the leaves were changing colors and falling all around, well that just wouldn't be very true to the spirit of the song, would it?

Staying on this theme Sea Lion by the Ruby Suns is the kind of album that is best enjoyed when the breaking of the clouds into flashing rain storms are a wonderful respite from the oppressive August heat. It's the point in the summer when I'm thankful for the dark of night after a long hot day. With a crackling bonfire, grilled feast, and good company, there's nothing more seasonally enjoyable than a soundtrack that feeds on primal energy. "Blue Penguin" sneaks in with the dusk, treading softly into your eardrums and relieving your brain from the heaviness that it felt as the temperature rose steadily to ninety. The song reminds me of a quietly tuning orchestra mixed with Ravi Shankar's autobiographical soundtrack. There are vaguely Eastern influences in the playing of the instruments, but there are also some science fiction sound effects and mumbling voices that give the whole song a creole texture. "Oh, Mojave" is strongly percussive, drawing on South American and African musical influences, while the whole song is a strong prayer to the intensely American desert. The music draws strongly on tribal songs, and is probably an homage to Native American music, but ends with an explosive noise and then the sound of metallic pinging off a rocky wall. "Tane Mahuta" is also dedicated to a famous natural landmark, although this time the landmark is very huggable. In New Zealand there is a tree called the Tane Mahuta which in the Maori language means "Lord of the Forest". I want to see this tree, and when I see it I want to be singing this song. The style is somewhat similar to the calypso rambling guitar lines of Vampire Weekend and Bedouin Soundclash, but this song is less accessible to the purely indie rock set. "There Are Birds" brings us back to the sounds of the Shins and New Order. The song is precision computer rock, but it never lacks heart, and it continues the Ruby Suns' album long love affair with nature. "It's Mwangi in Front of Me" sounds like some wonderful hybrid of Brian Wilson and Antony & the Johnsons, while I can even hear the ghost of a barbershop quartet skirting the background. This song is ethereal, but also heavy with humming sounds that wouldn't be out of place in a living jungle. There are hoots, and hushed whispers, and always the chattering of the insects and the wet rustling leaves. "Remember" is an uninhibited waltz, where the standards of the song are broken down. It's as if the Ruby Suns have purposely slowed down time - shutting off the rushing hustle and bustle, the ever-present need to stare at the clock or watch - and are just enjoying their commune with the real world instead of the fuzzy human construct that can so distort the important things in life. "Remember" is a sunset prayer. "Ole Rinka" takes on the musical tone of a drizzly rain, and has an almost mournful feeling. "Adventure Tour" reminds me of the Beatles more creative pieces, and is most definitely an ode to yomping (I'm not allowed to use the word "tramping", as in "tramping through the woods"). Then there's the burgeoning beauty of "Kenya Dig It?", which could have found its way onto the soundtrack to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory along with "Pure Imagination". It's fantastic in the best sense of the word, and it's also childlike and fun. The album finale is "Morning Sun" which has a electric whine and wail that is the tonal equivalent to the early morning rays of sunshine stretching sleepily across the sky. The pressure grows and grows, as the cool night fades away. Just remember that when the night comes again, you'll want Sea Lion in your stereo.

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