Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Sex & Food
Ruban Nielson is a self-admitted studio rat, and his work under the Unknown Mortal Orchestra moniker has always come across as meticulously loose. UMO’s songs either lope along at a measured pace or blast forward and threaten to come off the rails; but there’s always an immediacy and a bite that underly the madness and prove that every note and every beat is placed exactly where it’s supposed to be. On the band’s new album, Sex & Food, Nielson takes the listener on another kaleidoscopic journey through laser-precision beats, fuzzed-out-beyond-recognition guitars and vocals so layered that they obscure the better half of the songs’ lyrics. Nielson tones down the frenzy at several points on the record—like on the languid “Ministry of Alienation,” in the lazy R&B of “The Internet of Love (That Way)” and for closing track “If You’re Going to Break Yourself”—but the band’s biggest strength lies in its ability to ratchet up the energy out of nowhere. After the bass-heavy, Tame Impala-esque intro of “A God Called Hubris,” Sex & Food bursts out of the gates with the swirling “Major League Chemicals.” Nielson continues to explore his disco influences (nearly perfected on “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” from 2015’s Multi-Love ) on tracks like “Hunnybee” and “Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays,” to the benefit of his fans and dance floors everywhere, while lead single “American Guilt” opens with a choppy, head-banging fuzz-guitar riff and doesn’t let up save for an unexpectedly melodic chorus. He and UMO go hard (even when they’re going soft) and, thankfully, their diligent studio work isn’t going unnoticed.