Album Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra // V

Ruban Nielson returns with his fifth offering under the Unknown Mortal Orchestra name.

Emotive and playful, with echoes of jazz and electronica, V is a contemporary mixture which invites the listener to experience a masterful concoction of elements. Adaptive musical components within each track compliment one another and allow each chapter from the LP to bleed into the other seamlessly.

Listeners may notice the hapa haole influence making itself heard. Having evolved from its earlier form to a more varied one, hapa haole still accommodates an experimental approach from Hawaii’s artists while producing music that rejuvenates and celebrates their language.

V explores the melodic nature of psychedelic rock. While tracks like ‘The Garden’ prove angelic and harmonious, a track for ‘just a lonely kind of loser’ reminds us to ‘hold on tight, ‘cause it’s violent after dark in the garden’.

With the album’s complex polyphonic arrangement creating an original sound, tracks like ‘Guilty Pleasures’ become extremely memorable, an earworm singing ‘rise and shine, it’s a wonderful day’ each morning, and ‘now I know the nights are getting colder, guilty pleasures are holding us together’ each evening. UMO ensures an ideal environment for each instrumentation to breathe, as each individual component finds its own place within the jigsaw.

Melancholy and brightness intertwine to portray Nielson’s journey since 2019,  combating burnout and health issues to find a new voice. Grappling with mortality helped Nielson with a form of creative presence, and his strong familial bonds have evidently been poured into V, lending the tools to create UMO’s first double album.

With Nielson’s punk origins, the presence within V of a reciprocal sound with funky influences is an exciting one. “Taste as clout is dangerous to art, in my opinion,” the songwriter says, articulating a sentiment which prevails throughout the album’s 14 tracks. “Then, there’s music that will send a shiver down your spine. You didn’t ask for that shiver. It just happens.”

photo credit: Juan Ortiz Arenas

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Ruby Spink

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