Losing the element of surprise
By Ben Opipari
Friday, February 22, 2013
Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra posted an anonymous song online in 2010 to much acclaim, and the band’s subsequent debut album was quickly devoured by tastemakers. But you can hide only once on the Internet, and all indie eyes are on UMO’s second album, “II.”
The band has stuck with its swirling psychedelic guitars and lo-fi sound but has expanded its range, adding some ’70s funk and blue-eyed soul. True to its old-school roots, “II” thrives on its sequencing. Opening tracks “From the Sun” and “Swim and Sleep” draw on the psychedelia of early Pink Floyd and later Beatles, but the next two tracks showcase UMO’s funk: “One at a Time” features a horn riff and “So Good at Being in Trouble” has a classic R&B vibe.
Nielson’s stellar guitar work is the one constant throughout. UMO is known for its driving beats, but here his guitar work dominates. The album also has its share of catchy rock riffs, but there’s a lot of noodling as well, which emphasizes the band’s jazzier side.
“Monki,” which clocks in at more than seven minutes, is a microcosm of the whole: a touch of funk set behind standout guitar phrasing, all wrapped up in psychedelic effects.