When group leader Ruben Nielson anonymously flashed the gritty-soul ‘Ffunny Ffrends’ on Bandcamp in 2010, no one would have thought that the blogosphere was powerful enough to send Unknown Mortal Orchestra to Fat Possum and Jagjaguwar within two years. Not only is the transformation since their eponymous debut enormous, but the way they have been able to diversify into a variety of retro sub-genres is also fascinating.
II opens with ‘From The Sun’, a chill, thick psychedelic piece that bears an almost uncanny resemblance to Revolver-era Beatles. Though the acoustic sheds a serene tone on the piece, the lyrics tackle wearisome feelings of loneliness, madness and distress that Nielson was exposed to throughout his UMO career. The song breaks into three solo intervals throughout that all use the same note; the first is a reverberated steel drum; a swanky lead guitar; and a dreamily explosive synth. Each of these intervals cements the sensuality of the sophomore album. ‘So Good at Being in Trouble’ is the track that has caught the public’s eye, simply because of its unique take on blue-eyed soul – something that Neilson was fervent on from the beginning of his career. ‘The Opposite of Afternoon’ encapsulates the cool, lo-fi Sly & The Family Stone vocals; pure, fuzzy and funky. The track eventually flows into a musical strut of gliding bass of Jacob Portrait and Nielson’s stomping lead.
It’s a clear certainty that II will be nominated for this year’s Tate Award, as their debut was successful enough to snatch it in 2012. This album is bolder and is a multi-emotional batter of multi-genre mania but it’s far from fulfilling their potential – instead a semi-consistent LP of extravagantly endearing psychedelic-soul and sturdily put-together lo-fi rock.