Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Blue Record

BY Jazz MonroePublished Oct 29, 2013

It's likely that close listeners of II, a home blend of blue funk and psychedelia, had already diagnosed Ruban Nielson's psychological ills. Eight months on, Unknown Mortal Orchestra return with Blue Record, a chilled acoustic EP that grooves down and quietly electrifies. Spotlighting the naked despondency of the lyrics, the set features two covers (Beck's "Puttin' it Down" and Dirty Projectors' "Swing Lo Magellan") and three of II's cleanest cuts. What's remarkable is how effortlessly Unknown Mortal Orchestra distil complex arrangements: "Swing Lo Magellan" sways like a lullaby, while II's "Faded in the Morning" takes on an easy, spectral folk hue. As on II, "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" is a highlight, glimmering with melodic élan and proto-funk bass notes that recall early career the Band. While it's unclear exactly why these modest offerings require an official release, one suspects and hopes that a sustained creative output is at least affording Nielson some psychic stability.

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