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Unknown Mortal Orchestra II (2013)

 Unknown Mortal Orchestra — II (2013)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra II
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States, Auckland, New Zealand
Album release: February 5, 2013
Record Label: Jagjaguwar
Duration:     40:31
Tracks:
01. From The Sun     4:44
02. Swim and Sleep (Like A Shark)     2:45
03. So Good At Being In Trouble     3:50
04. One At A Time     2:29
05. The Opposite Of Afternoon     5:26
06. No Need For A Leader     5:45
07. Monki     7:19
08. Dawn     1:08
09. Faded In The Morning     4:22
10. Secret Xtians     2:43
Members:
Ruban Nielson - guitar, composer, singer
Jake Portrait - bass
Greg Rogove - drums
BBC Review
A second LP of minimal flab that builds on the positives of its predecessor.
√  Daniel Ross 2013-01-18
√  From under a cloud of anonymity and a fug of re-hashed and re-vamped psychedelia emerged Unknown Mortal Orchestra, seemingly from nowhere. Dutifully, critics and blogs thanked their lucky stars that the indie world had regained some intrigue, no matter how fleeting, and heaped plaudits on their eponymous debut album of 2011.
√  Revealing their identity as three boys from Portland, Oregon, led by Kiwi musician and former member of The Mint Chicks Ruban Nielson, was the first step towards the novelty wearing off. Increasingly, Unknown Mortal Orchestra were left with nothing but their tunes to protect them.
√  Weathering that initial burst of hype has inevitably raised expectations for a follow-up album that, by Nielson’s own admission, is not hugely different from the first. If there are discernible musical differences, it’s that there’s a little more clarity and slightly less reliance on the fuzz pedals – except on the wah-gasm of One at a Time, which remains delightfully disgusting.
√  But we are afforded a little more time getting closer to Nielson’s rapidly accelerating guitar prowess, particularly on first single Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark). That track alone is reason enough to buy II, placidly holding back its volume so that the full melodiousness of that guitar can stand proudly at the front.
√  It’s almost enough to make you forget the rather sombre disposition of the lyrics. When Nielson sings about wanting to disappear and “fall to the bottom”, it’s not affecting because of what he’s saying as much as it is because the guitar is a perfect match for it – a sign that his songwriting has become a craft rather than a puzzle.
√  There’s minimal flab elsewhere on II, with echoes of Love at their poppiest and most blues-indebted (especially on the surprisingly indulgent seven-minute boogie-fest Monki) and 13th Floor Elevators at their scratchiest. But thankfully throwbacks aren’t a concern when the songs are as wonderfully complete as they are on this record.
√  Now that everyone knows who they are, and much as they might protest, stepping into the limelight with confidence might not be the worst thing for Unknown Mortal Orchestra right now.
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First listen on NPR:
√  It’s hard to place Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s songs on a timeline: There’s uncertainty baked right into the band’s name, but its sound also shape-shifts frequently through the worlds of brittle indie-pop, Nuggets-era retro psych-rock, vintage soul and something more alien altogether.
√  Though no longer enshrouded in actual anonymity — Unknown Mortal Orchestra began as a name for the solo basement recordings of Mint Chicks‘ Ruban Nielson, who kept his involvement quiet early on — the songs themselves don’t attach themselves to specific eras, genres, seasons or regions of the country.
√  With the accurate if nondescript title II, UMO’s second album does make Nielson’s sound a bit grabbier — there’s more of a breezy brightness to it than could be heard on its self-titled predecessor, while several of these songs (most notably “The Opposite of Afternoon”) carry off a strain of soft psychedelic nostalgia. II still traffics in, and thrives on, its air of strangeness and unknowability, but that just makes its moments of shimmery warmth that much sweeter. (http://www.npr.org)
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√  In September 2012, Unknown Mortal Orchestra announced that they had signed to Jagjaguwar and were working on their second full-length album. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s sophomore album is titled II and will be released on February 5, 2013. The first single from the forthcoming album, entitled "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)", was first available as a 7" on their tour with Grizzly Bear.
√  Unknown Mortal Orchestra has scheduled a 2013 world tour for their forthcoming album. The tour starts off in Australia, follows with several stops in Europe, and finishes in North America after six weeks of shows with Foxygen.
Website: http://unknownmortalorchestra.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/unknownmortalorchestra
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REVIEW
Cate Summers, 23 January, 2013 (https://themusic.com.au)
√  Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the brainchild of ex-Mint Chicks member Ruban Neilson, have released a follow-up to their 2011 debut. II is a more conservative voyage into the psychedelic world than the previous release, the album reflecting a more reserved and measured approach to the genre and the thematic exploration of the idea of loneliness.
√  Opener, From the Sun, introduces us quickly to both the musical and thematic inspirations that are entwined throughout the tracks on II. The stark chorus of “Isolation can put a gun in your hand” is balanced out with a much lighter composition of delicate guitar and fuzzy vocals. Similarly, single, Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark), weighs out shadier lyrics (“I wish that I could swim and sleep like a shark does/I’d fall to the bottom and I’d hide till the end of time”) with a catchy folk-funk melody and Neilson’s warm vocals.
√  Neilson has a great ability to bring in different elements from a variety of genres, whether they be soul, hip hop or rock, and infuse them with this vintage, lo-fi, psychedelic sound that the band became recognised for in 2011. One at a Time shows off some great 1970s wah-wah-inspired chord progressions before moving seamlessly into The Opposite Of Afternoon, a more reserved, Beatles-inspired song. The energetic apex of the album, Faded In The Morning, wouldn’t have been out of place on the band’s debut, and it’s great to hear something a little more upbeat and catchy thrown in on the album, too.
√  While II may lack a few of the catchy hooks we saw on Unkown Mortal Orchestra’s first offering, it’s still a very interesting album that’s consistent in their old-school sound. The Music | theMusic.com.au | Australia’s Premier Music News & Reviews Website
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REVIEW
words by DENISE LU  (Rating: B+)
√  In the summer of 2011, few things were as satisfying as the gritty opening drum kicks to “Ffunny Ffrends” by the then mysterious Unknown Mortal Orchestra. More than a year later, their aptly-named sophomore album II unveils with almost the exact same laid-back beat, but not before a long duet of swirling guitars and processed vocals. Without a pronounced bass support and focus instead on muted acoustic guitar, the introduction almost made me second-guess whether I was actually listening to UMO or not. Any doubt, however, was soon dismissed as the bass and drums kick in a third of the way into the track, rounding out the full, warm sound UMO always delivers.
√  If their self-titled debut was any indication of an experiment in funk and garage, UMO’s II delves deeper into the jazz-tinged psychedelia end as guitarist Ruban Nielson’s riffs become a more prominent character alongside his strange, otherworldly vocals. Diverging a long way from The Mint Chicks, his previous power-punk outfit that indulged in two-minute hits of adrenaline, Nielson’s UMO has developed even further with this new collection of personal cuts that explore themes of loneliness and isolation.
√  Along these lines of alienation, it sounds like Nielson went back to the thrifted tape recorders he used generously in his last album to again filter his falsetto. Yet, this time around, with the mellow lone guitar, Nielson seems to be whispering personal thoughts on songs like “Secret Xtians” and “So Good At Being In Trouble” as opposed to leading mild anthem choruses. Even the upbeat garage rock cuts that sound like they belong to some sort of neo-Nuggets compilation sound distant and toned down, balanced by tracks like “Swim and Sleep” and “The Opposite Of Afternoon” that pit lyrical guitar riffs as a counterpoint against soft vocals.
√  With UMO’s more developed sound, it seems like there’s still a lot of exploration on II. There’s wondering and noodling around with complex melodies and a lot less of the quick-hit catchy riffs that radiated from their older songs. A welcomed change, UMO’s new approach showcases intricate guitar work that sings on its own. When it’s not acting as a prominent voice, it’s spotlighted on songs like “From The Sun,” in which a humble psych guitar solo fades the track out to uncertainty, similar to how a handful of other songs end on the album.
√  This uncertainty lingers on “Dawn,” an instrumental, atmospheric track reminiscent of UFO sound effects, a red herring of sorts. But the track is surprisingly relaxing, perhaps as solace is found in the strange. Whereas their last album piqued interest with new, abnormal sounds, II builds on this intrigue but in a calming manner, still drenched in the lo-fi, fuzzy warmness solidified with a cranked up bass.
√  In late 2010 when Nielson threw a track up on Bandcamp on a whim, UMO was never meant to be anything more than an experiment. With II, UMO remains humble in composition and production, creating an honest album that comforts in the strangest ways. [B+]
Fortaken: http://prettymuchamazing.com
--------------------------------------------------------------------Unknown Mortal Orchestra/Ruban Nielson, Jake Portrait, Greg Rogove
Management
Post Hoc Management
Tom Wironen: tom@posthocmanagement.com
US Publicist
Life or Death
Heathcliff Berru: info@wegetpress.com
UK Publicist
Family Ltd
Keong Woo: keongwoo@familyltd.co.uk
ROW Publicist
Jagjaguwar
Mike Holdsworth: mholdsworth@secretlycanadian.com
North and South
American Booking
The Windish Agency
Avery McTaggart
avery@windishagency.com
+1 (212) 897-6400
European Booking
The Agency Group
Natasha Bent: natashabent@theagencygroup.com
Australian and Asian Booking
Artist Voice
Dave Batty: dave@artistvoice.com.au
New Zealand Booking
Muchmore Music
Julian Carswell: julian@muchmoremusic.co.nz
Legal
Paul Sommerstein: psommers@earthlink.net
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Unknown Mortal Orchestra II (2013)

 

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