Polishing up a lo-fi sound that brought your fans to you in the beginning isn’t always the easiest thing to do. You risk losing not only your original fan base and critics' ears, but a lot of your identity within a genre. If, on the other hand, you never really could be aptly categorized in a genre, then a little refurbishing might just be what is needed to catch those critics' and new fans' ears to send you into music’s current upper echelon of redefined tastes.
Categorizing Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s distinct flavor has always been a bit tough as frontman and brainchild Ruban Nielson takes many different elements of psychedelia, pop, soul, neo-rock, retro-funk, and other slivers of indulgent modulation and contorts them into a gallimaufry of arrangements and melodies only to be thinly layered over with Nielson’s shadowy voice. On Multi-Love, UMO’s third and recently released full-length album, however, Nielson’s vocals stand out far more than before and help drive the crispness of the underlying complexities overlaid in each track. The album shines a light on a fresh take of psych-pop and funk not seen on many of today’s popular experimental albums. While there are plenty of synths and guitar grooves inherent throughout the album, it's the odd assortment of things like handclaps, harpsichords, hearty beats, disco grooves, and doleful trumpet (played by his dad) that make Multi-Love so vibrant and spirited.
There’s no doubt that you have heard of UMO recently as the Portland-based (Nielson is originally from New Zealand) band have made waves in the past few years with two other excellent albums that stand above the flooded fields of indie rock due to their unique chord jumping and inventive melodies. But it’s not just their albums that have grabbed fans' attention. UMO have been lauded for their cut-loose live shows that truly exemplify and showcase their ability to mix and mash their hybrid sound outside of the studio's walls. Live, they tend to allow each other plenty of space for improvisation and compelling solos that captivate the audience, twisting imaginations as if they were a towel being wrung out.
It appears to be a busy second half of the year for UMO but Nielson and company are set to travel back through Portland on Thursday, July 23 and grace the Aladdin stage for what is sure to be an outstanding display of musicianship. Opening the evening will be Los Angeles artist and musician Vinyl Williams.
Lionel Williams (aka Vinyl Williams) is the type of artist that looks to elevate your spirit and induce a full-on sensory experience. His brand of self described "space cruisin teal pop driven by hypnotic kraut rhythms and shoegaze phantasms” tends to take you deep into your own psychological realm while simultaneously letting your body run wild. The cosmic acid-pop has allowed him to travel the world opening for acts such as Toro Y Moi (Williams new record, Into, will be released on Chaz Bundick of TYM's label Company Records on July 24), Django Django, METZ and now UMO. Although Vinyl Williams rarely plays live, he has received much acclaim for his performances and should be a fantastic opener for a great night of experimental psych-pop at the Aladdin Theater.