Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex and Food Review

New Zealand born and Oregon based project of Reuben Neilson returns with their fourth full length album off the back of Multi-Love from 2015. With Sex and Food they have looked to ply gloomy Disco with brazen Psych Rock and combine that with deeper lyrical observations of the world around them. They have sought to balance their finessed approach with the more scattered mentality of their other tracks. It’ll be to balance this and ensure each approach compliments each other track by track for a complete album

‘American Guilt’ ramps up the typical mild lo-if sound to fuzzy, distorted whirring with Reuben’s creaking vocals cutting through to the centre of the sound. It evokes all of that Desert Rock imagery and though immaculate in its delivery; it is a well worn sound and you imagine one that can only serve them a finite amount. Though it does show that they can tangle with a bulkier, heavier sound, it this is not an album defining song, but is one that’s hard to ignore amongst the track listing. The mere concept of the title ‘American Guilt’ signals the sharp tongued lyrical intent for the album. ‘Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays’ falls into the finesse category. Familiar chiming organs and keys give way to a crisp beat with shuffling support from which similarly smooth chamber instrumentation bops on to a quickened tempo. Reuben’s hushed falsetto sails easily over it all as his vocals are cleverly backed up by the bass line only; thus freeing other elements to accentuate and expand the boundaries of the song. A cleverly arranged and produced track which despite its infectious hooks features including ‘we’re growing in a viscous garden, we don’t complain for nothing’ as they reflect the feelings of the current generation. A poignant message packed into a piece of funky electronica.

‘Not In Love We’re Just High’ begins as an slow, oscillating track which drops pools of electronica with the space and free for Neilson’s vocals to wander in and out of soulful caricatures. Beats eventually befall the track as it gradually grows to a larger sound with backing vocals, distorted hi-hats and the inevitable plunge into depths of Neo-Psych guitar. It is generally a mature, well developed track. ‘Major League Chemicals’ fully embraces this tag with the warped guitars, rumbling bass lines and manipulated vocals; even organs are thrown in for good measure to emulate a retro piece of Psychedelia. ‘Hunnybee’ is most reminiscent of the pie last album with falsetto vocals atop Pop strings and arrangements. The album is undoubtedly a solid effort and does nothing to diminish the talent of Neilson’s project as they go on to push their lyrical content further into view and continue to push their sound to its boundaries. One thing missing is a musical direction track by track. The album often seems lost and it isn’t variety where it stumbles, but consistency in-track. Some get lost in a lack of production discipline as they try to chase fruitless transitions and progressions. With a little more consideration and imagination this album would have been amazing, but instead confirms what we already know about UMO.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex and Food = 8/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays

If you’re looking for charged Psych Rock and gloomy Disco, then New Zealand’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra are the band for you in 2018. Following on from the last full studio release Multi-Love in 2015, Ruban Neilson’s group have went on to throw distorted weight behind some tracks and a refined finesse to others. Their new album Sex and Food is due for a April 6th release and their latest single from their fourth studio album ‘Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays’ falls into the finesse category. Familiar chiming organs and keys give way to a crisp beat with shuffling support from which similarly smooth chamber instrumentation bops on to a quickened tempo. Ruban’s hushed falsetto sails easily over it all as his vocals are cleverly backed up by the bass line only; thus freeing other elements to accentuate and expand the boundaries of the song. A cleverly arranged and produced track.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Unknown Mortal Orchestra – American Guilt

One of New Zealand’s quality acts return with their first original material since 2016 as Unknown Mortal Orchestra unleash ‘American Guilt’. Ruban Nielson’s group has meandered between Psychedelia to Electronica amongst hints of other sounds, making it sound oh so natural in whatever sound they’re wearing at the time. Their new single ramps up the typical mild lo-if sound to fuzzy, distorted whirring with Ruban’s creaking vocals cutting through to the centre of the sound. It evokes all of that Desert Rock imagery and though immaculate in its delivery; it is a well worn sound and you imagine one that can only serve them a finite amount. It does show that can tangle with a bulkier, heavier sound, it this is not an album defining song so you’d imagine there’s more to come.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Lorde – Perfect Places 

In the run up to the release of sophomore album Melodrama, Lorde dropped Green Light and Liability – two very different songs sending you to two very different places. Now the 20-year-old songstress has dropped Perfect Places, the song that will wrap up a tracklist detailing a night spent at an eventful house party. The track hardly paints the night to be one of great success, more a picture of beautiful carnage, which Lorde always illustrates wonderfully throughout her scrupulous repertoire celebrating inadequacy. Propped up by instrumentalism that recalls a little bit of Team blended with a little bit of the muted synth-disco of Green Light, her distinctive vocals relay events of “graceless nights” and dreaming of some kind of utopia – the happy-enough backing track may superficially imply Lorde and Co are already there, but the glum lyrics of longing for purpose and self-discovery suggest otherwise, combining what the girl does best: realism to a great beat.

Ellie Chivers

Single Review – Anna of the North – Lovers

Ahead of the release of much-anticipated debut album due September 8th, Anna Of The North releases new single, and title track, ‘Lovers’. A delicately dreamy synth pop track that pulsates like a heartbroken hushed prayer. ‘Lovers’ is an artfully poised take on the ever popular gentle eighties inspired pop sound. Norwegian vocalist, Anna Lotterud, and New Zealand producer, Brady Daniell-Smith craft a track that seems to echo with the fragility of relationships and the loneliness of heartbreak. As Daniell-Smith describes, the track is: ‘speaking of – those promises that we can’t keep like, I’ll always be there for you and, I’ll never leave.’ Lotterud adds; ‘the song describes the point when you feel alone and you’ve reached out but they’re not reaching back.’

Hayley Miller

Single Review – Lorde – Green Light 


It’s all too easy to forget that Lorde was sixteen when she grabbed everyone’s attention, critical, commercial and otherwise with her 2013 debut Pure Heroine. It was a strong release and all the more surprising that she has waited until now to follow up on that success; the record companies surely snapping at her heels. She clearly wants to do things her own way and this will be shown with her impending second release Melodrama which is expected in the summer. The first single from it is ‘Green Light’ which she claims to be the “poppiest” track on the upcoming album. It is certainly a departure from her previous work with lingering Pop piano chords from which her frantic vocals bring in a rapid dance beat with sweeping and reverberating electronica driving the song on. She switches vocal styles with ease and shows an added technical skill to what were already promising vocals. The music takes the que from her and that is a sure sign of a confident performer and that translates into a bold and confident song. She offers more than your standard Pop vocalist in that sense and this gives her scope to be more versatile and dynamic. Her new album is an intriguing prospect indeed.

Owen Riddle 

Single Review – Unknown Mortal Orchestra – First World Problem

New Zealand’s premier Psych-Rock outfit, Unknown Mortal Orchestra have released their first new material less than a year since their last album Multi-Love. The track was recorded during a break in touring for the album and ‘First World Problem’ would fit neatly into their last LP, it already shows sings of development in the groups sound. The track is sharper and cleaner with minimal beats and synth chords. This sound is accentuated by a slick falsetto from Ruban Nielson and along with a keen and familiar groove, the song is well composed and produced track. It shows that nothing can get in the way of creativity, not even a tour.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Broods -Couldn’t Believe

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The Brother and Sister duo of Georgia and Caleb Nott from Nelson, New Zealand make up the Electro-Pop duo that is Broods. On June 24th they’ll have followed up on their solid debut album with Conscious. They have given us a taste of it with the first single ‘Couldn’t Believe’ and from it we get the impression that they’re to go bolder on the Pop scale. Alongside the tumbling beats and whirring synths come Georgia’s delicate, but steadfast vocals. This makes for a rhythmic and spacious affair, but with acts such as Chvrches and AlunaGeorge occupying the extremities of their sound with greater success, a stronger assertion of their sound may be required to catch people’s attention.

 

Owen Riddle

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love Review

The New Zealand/American psych-rock trio return with their third studio album titled Multi-Love and we’ve said so many times before, the second album is about setting the foundations of credibility after the first but the third is about going beyond that and being creative and making your mark. The fuzzed out Lo-fi of II from 2013 was a good follow-up to their self titled debut, but there’s plenty of Lo-fi psych floating around at the moment and it’s something that Ruban Nielson’s group had to shake up with Multi-Love.

The title track is wonderfully subtle and effortlessly smooth in it’s progression and melody. It is a lesson in swift and slick instrumental progressions from the minimalistic introduction with the organs in isolation with Ruban’s vocal; slightly wistful and fading, yet still with power and confidence behind it. The song then picks up the percussion and muted bass-line as the vocals rise in a controlled fashion, within the framework of the instrumentation. The song easily falls away into those sparse moments with the soft, warping guitars and the subtle tones from the vocals. It’s a song that defines versatility and control in how the shifts in the song remained relevant and made sense in relation to the rest of the track and was quite simply beautifully delivered and presented. ‘Ur Life One Night’ is deliberately less crisp in it’s production and the whole song is delivered through a divulging warp that highlights the songs depths, accentuating the heavy bass as the rest of the instrumentation clicks and snaps in it’s rhythm to make for a catchy and hook-laden track despite the blurring of the sound. Through this production filtration, the vocals rise through it to deliver the melodic latchings. It’s a track of dual quality and dual ability in delivering a rhythmic yet atmospherically challenging sound.

‘Can’t Keep Checking my Phone’ comes in with the groove laden hooks and the shimmering percussion and airy riffs whilst going on to bring forth electronica to enthuse the track and enhance the song’s hooks. At times it moves on from it’s mellow rhythm and has shades of a stylish dance track reminiscent of Hot Chip to form another dynamic track. ‘The World is Crowded’ continues this in a similar fashion, but with more clearer and spacious production. ‘Stage or Screen’ is a little more reflective of their previous body of work, but it still maintains the versatile production of the rest of the album as it moves in and out of focus and clarity to give a seemingly simple track more character and contemplative quality. ‘Puzzles provides a heavier variation on the album with the distortion stuffed riffs and grinding rhythm sections set around an otherwise spacious and minimalistic instrumentation. Tracks such as ‘Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty’ offer up a more breezy intersect amongst the heady and meandering styles and as an album Multi-Love has to be their best yet and shows Unknown Mortal Orchestra to be a band that has the potential for great versatility and dynamism amongst their sounds and the confidence to try out these variations within their tracks, nevermind their album. When this is coupled with the intelligent and wonderfully slick production, then there is very little critique you can throw their way.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love = 8.5/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Musical World Tour – New Zealand – Princess Chelsea – No Church on Sunday