UN­KNOWN MOR­TAL ORCHES­TRA

IC-01 HANOI (Jag­jaguwar/Rhyth­method)

Metro Magazine NZ - - Albums -

It’s be­come de rigueur for hip-hop stars to hit their fans with un­ex­pected, sur­prise in­ter­ven­tions: al­bums that stray from the nor­mal al­bum­tour-al­bum-tour cy­cle, and give the artist a chance to de­vi­ate from the ex­pec­ta­tions of their spon­sors. But sur­prise al­bums are still a rar­ity in alt-rock, so we’ve got to hand it to Un­known Mor­tal Orches­tra, that most cel­e­brated of ex­pat New Zealand groups, for spring­ing the very sur­pris­ing IC-01 Hanoi on us just a few months af­ter their last re­lease, Sex & Food.

While the name might sug­gest a world-mu­sic in­flu­ence, this Hanoi ses­sion (which adds Ruban Niel­son’s brother Kody, fa­ther Chris and a team of Viet­namese mu­si­cians) is re­ally a chance to roll around in and rel­ish the jazz-rock and Krautrock styles that in­formed Sex & Food. Free of songs, IC-01 Hanoi is clearly seven ex­cerpts from a se­ries of jam ses­sions where they get to stretch out and ex­per­i­ment with form and groove struc­ture. Oh, and did I men­tion that it’s a blast?

While sev­eral of these tracks seethe with the dark fo­ment of Miles Davis’s jaz­zrock On the Cor­ner, the more pal­pa­ble in­flu­ence is Krautrock group Can, and some­times it feels like both groups jam­ming si­mul­ta­ne­ously — some­thing that would never have hap­pened in real time in the early 70s. It’s an of­ten heady mix, and key to the sound is the over­driven wah-wah gui­tar and fuzzbass, while Niel­son se­nior is high­lighted on sev­eral tracks, adding sax, flute and flugel­horn so­los that can’t help but make things sound much jazz­ier than they oth­er­wise might have been.

Any­thing but an in­dul­gence, IC-01 Hanoi is a vi­tal glimpse of the cre­ative process at work and a de­mon- stra­tion of a group regenerati­ng it­self through rest­less ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. The only down­side for this lis­tener is the episodic na­ture of these un­ti­tled tracks. There’s one 10-minute piece, and it’s a beauty that shows that rep­e­ti­tions piled on rep­e­ti­tions gather mo­men­tum over time. Most are short frag­ments, how­ever, and sound like ex­cerpts taken from re­ally long im­pro­vi­sa­tions. I wanted to hear the long ver­sions.

UMO HAVE BEEN NOM­I­NATED FOR FOUR 2018 NEW ZEALAND MU­SIC AWARDS, TO BE AN­NOUNCED ON NO­VEM­BER 15.

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