Jagjaguwar – JAG232 (2013) US
Emerging from rampant hedonism and isolation is II, the new album from Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The musical vision of Portlander-via-New Zealand Ruban Nielson started as an anonymous home-recording project that fused psychedelia, soul, choppy percussion and funk. UMO came to life in basements and bedrooms after Nielson moved from his native New Zealand to Portland, Oregon with his family. Following the recruitment of bassist Jacob Portrait, new drummer Greg Rogove and a deal with Jagjaguwar, UMO toured the US with Grizzly Bear and Liars.
II builds on the break-beat, junk-shop charm the 32-year-old multi-instrumentalist and songwriter came to be renowned for following his self-titled 2011 debut, and signals the solidification of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s position as an endlessly intriguing, brave psychedelic band. UMO is unafraid to dig deeper than the rest to lock into their intoxicating, opiate groove and bring rock’n’roll’s exaggerated myths to life. Written during a punishing, debauched touring schedule during which Nielson feared for both his sanity and health, II illustrates the emotional turmoil of life on the road, painting surrealist, cartoonish portraits of loneliness, love and despair.
Pulling Pink Floyd, the Family Stone, The Beatles and the Soft Machine through his warped rock’n’roll filter; Nielson created a collection of expressive, psychedelia. Unknown Mortal Orchestra was once Nielson’s closeted concern. With an album that uses his singular musical imagination and extraordinary talent to parade his emotions with unyielding honesty, it is now a fully realized band operating at the peak of its powers. – Ben Homewood