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Unknown Mortal Orchestra Share Album 'Sex & Food' + Review

Unknown Mortal Orchestra Share Album 'Sex & Food' + Review

Review by Soong Phoon / Friday 6th April, 2018 9:16AM

Following a captivating run of singles Ruban Nielson's psychedelic project Unknown Mortal Orchestra have shared their much awaited fourth studio album Sex & Food, a kaleidoscopic journey through fiery guitar rock, artful soul grooves and lots more. We recently spoke with Nielson who described the new album as "a survey of what I'd done so far," UMO will be returning to local stages with a nationwide tour slated for September featuring Nielson's brother and songwriting collaborator Kody Nielson (Silicon) on drums. Wrap your lucky ears around the new album and read Soong Phoon's insightful review of Sex & Food below...

Listening to Unknown Mortal Orchestra's new record Sex & Food is like strolling through scenes of a series of Tarantino films. At the start, you lean in - not quite sure where you are. It's sprawling, jazzy, suspenseful, surprising, often funked up, distinctly American in its sound (for a Kiwi band), and in this case - like Kill Bill Vol. 2 - full of melancholy and loss. Each song feels displaced from the next: in their varied tones and rhythms and in the eclecticism of the sound. Each time you reach the end and replay, it starts to make more sense.

Also like Tarantino's films, Sex & Food is referential to other artists. Or rather, as listener, you often find yourself trying to place the sounds and songs. The album is steeped in Hendrix (‘Major League Chemicals’) and Captain Beefheart throughout, there’s the smooth Prince funk on ‘Everyone Gets Crazy These Days’, even Elliot Smith on 'This Doomsday' - when Nielson’s vocals are least distorted. An even more contemporary reference would be Beck. A certain kind of listener would exclaim "yacht rock!" For another, it might conjure up images of New York’s no wave scene. It’s because Nielson has crafted an absolutely unique, specific sound that refracts the sounds of so many artists. Stepping into the sound of his warm, rock-edged psychedelic funk, ghost-like vocals, purring guitars and twinkling keys is stepping into a special aural world that would and could only ever be UMO’s.

‘Not In Love, We’re Just High’ and ‘Everyone Acts Crazy These Days’ are absolute, swoony bangers. The former sounds like it could’ve come straight from Multi-Love. The 2015 album is a euphoric, contemplative narrative, and you can’t help but compare Sex & Food with it. Where Multi-Love is expansive and cohesive in the story it tells, Sex & Food is cryptic and undecipherable. On Sex & Food, it sounds like Nielson feels stuck in the middle about how much to disclose, and is instead exploring themes of politics, disappointment, love, loss and melancholy in a series of freewheeling vignettes. It could also be because the album was recorded on tour – in Seoul, Hanoi, Reykjavik, Mexico City, Auckland, and Portland. But it’s a set of perfectly constructed songs and fiercely memorable: ‘American Guilt’ harks back to his Mint Chicks era and ‘Hunnybee’ is an incredible song, full stop. Cryptic can really be very very good.


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Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Wed 5th Sep 8:00pm
Ngaio Marsh Theatre, Christchurch
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Thu 6th Sep 8:00pm
Glenroy Auditorium, Dunedin
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Fri 7th Sep 8:00pm
The Hunter Lounge, Wellington
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Sat 8th Sep 8:00pm
Auckland Town Hall, Auckland