Tuesday, 13 May 2008

LIVE REVIEW: The Ruby Suns, The Drunken Unicorn, Atlanta, 14 Aptil

Awesome - everything’s "totally freaking awesome" in this country. From my pronunciation of humdrum words like “aluminium” and “tomato” to the relentless flash floods that plough their way through an already tornado-decimated Atlanta, there’s seemingly nothing over here that can’t be described glowingly in those seven little letters.

Emanating from the gleekit backwaters of Scotland, such unflappable enthusiasm comes as much of a surprise to this sour-faced hack – it’s almost as perplexing as the single orange slice found floating in my pint of Erdinger upon arriving four days ago – but as I enter the almost un-locatable scuzz-hole of The Drunken Unicorn my eyes are met by something far removed from such jaw-gaping effusiveness.

A measly 29 folk have converged to witness the extraordinary sonic spectrum of The Ruby Suns tonight – that’s right, less than 30 punters have turned up to witness a band whose sophomore (sorry, but I'm in America so it's acceptable, isn't it?) album Sea Lion scored 8.3 on Pitchfork and mighty fine 8 here on these very pages. Christ, and they say Edinburgh's lacking in its support of quality music. If this is the best American crowds have to offer then its nae wonder so many stateside acts choose to adopt the UK shores as their surrogate homeland.

Such sparse, smoke-filled surroundings do not seem like the most fitting of venues in which the New Zealand-based trio will thrive tonight but as a cacophonous swell of seashell-bellowed harmonies and shuddering tribal rhythms oscillates through the rafters and into the plugged-up lugholes below, this meagre attendance quickly erodes from thought.

This is a truly remarkable set, breathless of pace and enchanting of aura. The effects board adventurism of button-cute duo Amee Robinson and Imogen Taylor are a playful backbone of waterfall melodies and jinking synth sirening that lounge out canopy-like over ‘There Are Birds’’ magnificent sun-blushed splendour. But, for all their rosy-cheeked endeavours, it’s Ryan McPhun’s multi-instrumental athleticism that pilfers the attention of pin-holed peepers tonight.

A Catherine Wheel of limbs and locks, the be-shorted frontman’s combustible percussion pounds and affected guitar spindling are a mesmerising combination, riddled with energy and bustling with ingenuity. The slow burned, sometime languid, trickling found in Sea Lion rarely rears its head here as McPhun unleashes his raw, unbridled skin-pummelling over ‘Ole Rinka’’s opening chimes. He is a man possessed; eyes peeled and skin tautened as bones pound the floor with the relentlessness of a middle distance runner pulling out of the slipstream and accelerating to victory. And what a victory it is.

Every patchworked trinket is infused with a joyous sense of urgency that steam-rolls stage-side cynics into an ebullient playground where simple fireside jaunting melodies are created by a hexagonal labyrinth of musicianship. The likes of ‘Oh Mojave’ and ‘Tane Mahuta’ are astonishing moments of Hawaiian-esque blustering, recalling the spider-webbed weavery of Animal Collective’s Here Comes The Indian yet frothing with an ease of listening that incites harmonious head bobbing rather than the appreciative chin-stroking that typifies many acts as precocious of instrument.

And that’s what makes the group such a mesmerising live proposition – this is not just live music, it’s music that’s alive; alive like the sound of waves crashing against the shore and rain dancing on the earth and, as the last sprinkle of sumptuous melody gushes into the airwaves, it’s music that’s alive to a triumphant, prolonged applause that greets the band’s exit from stage. There may have been jack-shit here to witness this staggering showing but as the lights go up and the ‘crowd’ disperses there’s absolutely no denying it: tonight, The Ruby Suns were absolutely awesome.
Rating: 9/10

No comments: