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- Unknown Mortal Orchestra by Unknown Mortal Orchestra
9/10 Mike Staff review, 22 July 2011
This is a really good week for new records. The one I have here is by the forgettably-named Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Thankfully the music isn't nearly as forgettable. I was hoping I'd like it as soon as I set eyes on the sleeve - a photo of what looks like some old tumbledown ultra-modern Cold War architecture in Russia. That's my guess anyway. Bet it turns out to be somewhere in New Zealand or something now and I'll look like a right prat. Anyway, I'm on my third listen and all the songs on this record already sound like old favourites. Apparently this band started life as a bedroom pop side-project of Ruban Nielson from New Zealand punky nutters Mint Chicks and has developed a life of its own. Now he's even put a band together so that these songs can be performed live, and it's not hard to see why. This is a wonderfully unselfconscious wonky pop record, with woozily-paced tunes with Beatles-esque unison on the guitar and vocals in places. What appeals immediately to me about this record is that it doesn't seem to pander to any trends, the tunes aren't all drowned in '60s reverb like 90% of today's indie tends to be, it's just a clever, soulful, unique piece of work. 'How Can You Luv Me' sounds like Prince crossed with Weird War, with some totally amazing bass fills and everything. It's all got that lo-fi bedroom-recording film of murk surrounding it but the compositions here are so carefully put together that it holds its own next to any hi-fi pop stuff I've heard lately. It kind of sounds like Enon in places too. The influences are all over the place but the basic gist of this record is that it combines really immediate, catchy tunes with unusual tones and instrumentation. It's a bit psych-pop in places but the bedroom recording techniques and imaginative arrangements really show an awareness and love for every era of popular music. It's so great to get a record where I simply don't know who to compare it to. It's a bit like Washed Out in places an' all, but the more I listen to it the more I'm convinced that throwing out comparisons to other bands is only gonna sell this album short. All you really need to know is that it's sophisticated and fun in equal measure, and if you're remotely interested in experimental indie pop it's a new name to make yourself aware of. I keep forgetting the name of the band myself so perhaps that's easier said than done...
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