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 – The Shins – Dead Alive

The Shins rose to prominence during the Indie reflex following The Strokes first two albums; they were much involved in the wider Indie culture after being featured in Zach Braff’s film Garden State in 2004. James Mercer’s 60’s Pop Influences distinguished the group as a laid back band with good lyrical content as opposed to the more frantic style of Kings of Leon or the clean cut sound of The Killers. Their music has since only received gentle nudges in direction that build on Mercer’s vocals and narration as Mercer made bigger musical leaps with his Dangermouse collaboration, Broken Bells. The Shins are back with a new album I Gleek On Your Grave for early next year. It will have been five years since their last album by that point. 

Their new single ‘Dead Alive’ shows signs of another gentle nudge in direction with old, whirring keyboards and gentle acoustic chords stringing the song’s rhythm together. Mercer’s casual vocal reverberates across the simple instrumentation as the song slips into phases of early psychedelics of The Beatles or The Zombies. It is a enjoyable track and is warm with familiarity in spite of the odd shift. It would be nice for Mercer to blow this sound out of the water, but with The Shins he’s quite happy to cruise along nicely and I for one, can’t find a problem with that. 

Owen Riddle

Pure Bathing Culture – Pray For Rain Review

Sarah Verspille and Daniel Hindman make up Portland’s Pure Bathing Culture; a duo of well developed and meaningful pop music and last month they released their second full length studio album with Pray For Rain. With most groups on to their second album the minimum requirement would be playing it safe and from that their options range from building on what they know or going off in a completely different direction. Pure Bathing Culture have wisely chosen the former as they still bed themselves in to the pop genre.

The title track is quite simply a well functioned piece of space rock or electronic psychedelica. It has a basic and unflappable beat throughout and from this solid foundation the guitars wash over in their distorted haze and the from this the delicate synths carry the song along before Sarah picks up with her easily melodic, pop vocals. In what is a brilliant piece of pop music the song rings out confidently in a strident fashion and this is only advanced by the confident vocals and backing vocals. Beyond this it has more the meets the eye with it’s washed out guitars fading into the distance and this really opens up the song to allow the vocals and synth parts to remain prominent. A great track. ‘Palest Pearl’ is much more clean and crisp in it’s pop delivery with buoyant electronica driving the song in a definitive fashion with Sarah’s melodic howling pinpointing the song’s obvious pop sensibility. It offers up imagery of an early 80’s electronic disco and though it’s a well worn sound they make it a little less cold and layer it with modern pop methodology to limit it’s datedness.

‘Darling Save Us’ provides us with slightly warped, jangling riffs and Sarah’s delicately distorted vocals for what is a light hearted track of basic melody. These small sounds are expanded upon with vocals harmonies and a more prominent beat to shed light onto the track, but it is a track which feels like it is without ending with repetitive vocal filler making up a significant part of the song. ‘Clover’ delivers similarly tightly woven pop riffs with blocky synth chords and these combine with sharp 80’s percussion samples to make a song that actually ends up becoming more graceful and effortless in it’s delivery then you might first think and Sarah’s vocals are given a greater expanse in order to achieve this, but the instrumentation remains smooth in it’s own right. Song’s such as ‘I Trace Your Symbol’ offer up neat pieces of Indie Pop akin to Belle & Sebastian with a greater sonic identity. The album has a tried and tested formula which they freshen up and work well, but it is nothing that will really excite you in this regard. Having said that, there are some brilliantly melodic and functional tracks here on this album and they have shown they can combine catchiness with lavish expanses so whilst this album won’t set the world on fire, it can be appreciated as a very solid body of work by very capable musicians.

Pure Bathing Culture – Pray For Rain = 7.5/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – Pure Bathing Culture – Palest Pearl

The synth-pop duo consisting of Sarah Verspille and Daniel Hindman are from Portland, Oregon and plan on releasing their third studio album Pray For Rain on October 23rd and the title track offered up a sonically charged and fuzzed up piece of electro-pop. This track is much more clean and crisp in it’s pop delivery with buoyant electronica driving the song in a definitive fashion with Sarah’s melodic howling pinpointing the song’s obvious pop sensibility and it’s this quality that we’re expecting to see in various guises when Pray For Rain released at the end of October.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

White Fang – Full Time Freaks Review

Say hello to White Fang! They are from Portland, Oregon and they have been responsible for some heavy, thrashing punk over the last few years with this, their third album and it is called Full Time Freaks. It is out on April 28th on Metal Postcard Records and you can find it at Rough Trade East.

The short and sweet album opens with ‘Gonna Get It’ which starts with a slightly disjointed and lone riff before being joined by a melodic partner with the bass linking up before flashing into waves of distortion from the guitars, drums and reverberating vocals that is all tied up by the bass line. The song doesn’t really have a chorus yet it doesn’t really need one with it serving it’s purpose as a track to just lose yourself to and go mental to, which I can imagine occurring when the song is played live. Diverting to a verse would sort of take off some of the raw energy of the song that delivers a sharp burst at a little over two minutes. The title track starts off with bare and minimalistic zaps of a modulated synth that gradually increase in tempo before developing into a rapid rhythm before the sharper roar of distortion from the guitars come in. The vocals are more like a bold and ‘in yer face’ rap that is offset brilliantly by the softer and more harmonious backing vocals. One of the standout tracks from the album.

‘Talkin’ To Gary On The Corner’ opens like an early Bowie or 70’s Kinks track with the gentle acoustic chords and it undoubtedly retains that swagger and feel as the vocals come in and the song progresses. They are heavily distorted and isolated which is what adds the different dimension to this track and it controls the attention of the listener completely with the lyrics taking centre stage. The pop like backing vocals and the lighter, strung out guitars adding the contrast which makes the music just as appealing. Just imagine a very lo-fi Nick Cave or something along those lines. ‘Shut Up’ features a phased out snappiness to it via the drum samples it uses at the start. Upon this falls the churning and grinding riff before the deep toned and isolated vocals come in delivering some straight to the point and stomach churning lyrics. The falsetto the develops towards the end almost sounds sarcastic which is fits in to the tone of the song so easily. ‘Talkin’ To The Apple’ is largely a shift in tone with softly lapping riffs and instrumental melodies and harmonies which almost acts as the albums intermission. Thinly laid riff open ‘Waste My Time’ before nudging the song into the distorted affair of vocals and guitar. ‘High On Life’ is a little like Crocodiles with a slightly more sugary and optimistic tone to it with the pop like backing vocals and the happy lyrics. On the face of it, you think this album could be a little monotonous and sounding too similar to other groups with all their distortion and blocky guitar sounds. Listen to it all the way through and you get a more diverse picture lyrically, musically, stylistically in a way that you can certainly pin to a West Coast sound, but one that is able to set itself apart from it all at the same time. Aside from this it is just a fun and raucous, raw piece of thrasy punk and pop; not setting the world alight but more keeping it spinning.

White Fang – Full Time Freaks = 7/10

Images from rawramp.me / www.contactmusic.com



Album Taster – Blouse – No Shelter

The band from Portland, Oregon are to release their second album called Imperium on September 16th and prior to this they released at track from the album called ‘No Shelter’ With this track it would suggest a move to a more guitar driven album with lots of distortion and reverb that still creates the echoed and spacious feel of their previous works. In this song in there is sort of an abandonment of the synths and other effects and techniques but it still works. In many ways it’s more festival friendly and perhaps takes the pop sheen off their music some what too and it sounds a little less clean cut than some of their work from 2011 but even then it wasn’t so clean cut anyway. Perhaps the change is down to the Tame Impala effect which it sort of replicates in a more subtle fashion and in that sense doesn’t seem like a blatant copy so all in all the album could be a good, dreamy and whirring affair.


Image from againstheoddz.blogspot.com