Review by Olivia Wedderburn

They’ve barely scratched the surface of the scene at the mere age of 2 years old but Unknown Mortal Orchestra are making waves in music with their psychedelic rock (presumably induced by psychedelics) and throwback to lo-fi reverbs of years past, snuggling neatly between the futuristic sounds of Blood Orange, Wild Nothing and John Maus. Anxiously anticipated II quenches the thirst for fans of “Ffunny Ffriends” with an album no one was quite sure was going to be made, and pushes the boundaries of the genre with a melodic journey reflecting on the slightly dark psychosis of front man Ruban Nielsen. Cockles are warmed almost instantaneously with slow melodic opening to the album, simplistic but powerful notes followed by a playful soft vocal accompaniment, a dream like sound with unnerving lyrics typical of Nielsen’s style in “From The Sun”. “So Good At Being In Trouble” is a morose tale hidden amongst funky guitar demonstrating that experimental sound UMO are famous for and is a welcome second contender to the albums running’s. II slips lucidly between experimental sounds, stripped down instrumentals and punchy lo-fi pleasantry. It’s appropriately dense in areas and simplistic in others, culminating in a musical gem. It almost ticks all the right boxes.

Highlights such as “The Opposite of the Afternoon”, a lengthy sixties style track that comes in half way through the album, and “One at a Time”, the song prior, show the bands innate ability to be versatile without alienating its core sound, and are welcome amongst some other tracks which, while essential to the story UMO are trying to tell via II, can get lost a bit amongst the weightier numbers. “Dawn”, a short and entirely instrumental piece, brings you almost as into a coma as a follow on piece from the relaxing “Monki”, and made me feel like I’d been up all night and it was time for bed. It’s the kind of song I’d put on to try and get everyone to fuck off out of my living room, which perhaps why it is followed by “Faded in The Morning”, aptly titled. The sensitivity of the bands style shines through in this album, full of melodic key changes and soft reverb, “Swim and Sleep” best demonstrates this, capturing what bought in UMOs cult following in the first place.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra have made a successful come back and I’d be really interested to see them pulling this album off live, though its ethereal sound sometimes didn’t sit quite well with me. Very much deserving of its place in its genre, I feel that this album will gradually grow on the listener, with the talented works of the individuals behind this collaborative becoming more accentuated with each try. Though II is short, it is packed with fast-fingered guitar, an uncut edge and beautiful songwriting, propelling it into the heats of UMO fans everywhere. Certainly not everybody’s cup of tea but a triumph at spanning across genres and creating their own home there, with Kinksesque vibes cutting through Ariel Pink sounds, and a very worthy debut into 2013. 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II was released via Jagjaguwar on February 5th 2013. You can buy the album HERE and the band play at The Deaf Institute on Monday 6th May, tickets are available HERE.

You can read more articles from Olivia Wedderburn via here Blogspot HERE.   

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