Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Sex & Food (Jagjaguwar) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #63 - Courtney BarnettUnknown Mortal Orchestra

Sex & Food


Apr 04, 2018 Issue #63 - Courtney Barnett Bookmark and Share

Attempting to work out which direction an Unknown Mortal Orchestra track is about to head off in is as easy as trying to catch the wind in your hand. It’s not even possible to pin down the broader style Ruban Nielson and the rest of this New Zealand-born/Portland-based band are going to employ at any given moment.

So they prove on Sex & Food, their fourth full-length and the first in three years. It’s quite a journey, taking in a healthy dose of guitar virtuosity, sampling, ridiculously smooth basslines, and plenty of keyboard magic.

It’s not just that they refuse to let any single instrument dominate for long, although Nielson’s guitar is the leader. Sex & Food seems almost perversely determined not to repeat itself. Fuzzy garage rock rubs shoulders with psychedelia, R&B, and lo-fi ramblings. It’s as loose as a yoga class and 10 times as fun.

Just listen to how “Chronos Feasts on His Children” tinkles along on gentle waves before “American Guilt” goes all Silverchair, blasting out gravelly guitars. Or move forward a couple of tracks to relish the way “This Doomsday” brings a determined, yearning air that immediately jumps into “How Many Zeros” led by Amber Baker’s drums.

The constant twitching, shifting nature admittedly grows tiring after a while. A restless urge to keep shaking things up is all well and good, but it makes it hard to get a grip on the record. Not all the upturning comes off, and transitions jar as often as they work.

And then you get something like “Hunnybee” to wipe away complaints. It’s a delightfully funky track destined to become jammed on repeat. On Sex & Food Unknown Mortal Orchestra are inventive, ragged, sometimes tiring, and very cool. (www.unknownmortalorchestra.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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