So much about music and, really, about life comes down to timing. Breaks, influences, hits and misses; it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra scoffs at this notion.
Crafted in 2011 by New Zealander Ruban Nielson, UMO’s self-titled debut came out of the comfy confines of friends’ and neighbors’ basements in Portland, Oregon, but sounded like it was created in a vacuum.
Harkening to hazy psych and soul from the 70s, the record stood starkly apart from its 21st century contemporaries. With its distorted guitar lines, reverbed vocals, and breakbeat percussion, the record seemingly tore a rift in spacetime, opening a portal to a place where there is no now, just tunes created without a timestamp, belonging to no one and nowhere.
With its Zeppelin-esque title, II encores the act, deftly striking the fine balance between recreating the magic of the first album and not delving into the repetitive. We still have the psychedelic swirls and the album still sounds like it came out of a dust-covered crate, but there’s a darker, more malevolent tone.
Written largely during a hellacious tour, the opening lines creep out frighteningly over a warm finger-plucking: “Isolation can put a gun in your hand. It can put a gun in your hand. If you need to, you can get away from the sun.”
The road-weariness is repeated again the next cut “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark),” a tune resplendent in isolationism, indifference and undeniably catchiness.
The sounds shift smoothly to soul (“So Good At Being In Trouble”), late-era Beatles (“One At A Time”, “The Opposite of Afternoon”), and spaced out stonerism (“Monki”), all without losing the album’s consistent sepia-toned coloring.
Regardless of era, II stands out as a well-crafted artifact of psychedelia, perfect for an escape from the here and now.