UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA

While legions of artists show fidelity to psychedelia's roots, Unknown Mortal Orchestra has always shared the rare quality that makes the genre's legends vital, a constant need for exploration. Last year, frontman and multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson descended into his home studio in a Portland basement to chart out where's he traveled since his last set of unhinged psych-soul ballads. He discovered that the best way for him to move forward would be to look back. Where Nielson addressed the pain of being alone on II, Multi-Love takes on the complications of being together. Nielson wrote the surrealistic II during an isolated period on the road, a walkabout throughout disillusionment and darkness when he pushed away. The more upbeat Multi-Love charts a different type of catharsis and reflects on relationships. "The writing on this album was more abstract, riddles that slightly disrupt the flow," he says. "A good lyric was something that didn't quite sit right. I don't want to be sad or nostalgic about these relationships. I want to be more celebratory. It's a feeling and desire that just came from time, being further away from it all. It was never going to be simple. I'm a bit wild, and was never going to just be normal." The threads of our past never unravel, they hover like invisible webs, occasionally glistening due to a sly angle of the sun. On Multi-Love, Nielson walks right into this intoxicating and inviting cloud, enveloped by the haze of memory and the fog of the past: longing, loss, wanting to be tied up but not tied down. The title track plots out the geometry of desire when three people align. Lyrics such as "actor, but never for stage and screen" reference past affairs that can never be understood. The languid "The World is Crowded" speaks to an addictive obsession. "Can't Keep Checking My Phone," with an opening serenade of intertwined trumpet and guitar, struts and sings, neon synths and bouncing bass telling of an airy, humid feeling pressing against your temples. Nielson isn't animated by pain but the mysteries that unravel from the spark of attraction. Beyond exploring universal feelings of attachment, Nielson also reconstructed his music-making process, expanding his horizons and abilities. The guitar virtuoso engrossed himself in synthesizers and production techniques, rediscovering a sense of craft and creation. Synapses fired as new musical connections were mapped out. In a basement space with cords snaking across the floor, connecting banks of keyboards and reams of new ideas, he literally rewired instruments and learned the joy of creating something out of nothing. His vocals reach new heights, especially on the soaring title track. The new psychedelic canvas moves past citing references to creating his own narrative. "It felt good to be rebelling against the typical view of what an artist is today, a curator," he says. "Our society wants to curate and consume. I wanted to be the guy behind the scenes, to demonstrate multiple skills and make it transparent. Not creating this overblown idea of a rock star or anything like that. It's more about being someone who makes things happen in concrete ways. Building old synthesizers and bringing them back to life, creating sounds that aren't quite like anyone else's. I think that's much more subversive." It's psychedelia that doesn't ignore the last 40 years of music, pushing boundaries and making a quiet argument against the idea that every frontier has been explored. Multi-Love offers a flowing, cohesive view of Nielson's expanded vision. Jagged, sculpted beats and cosmic synthesizers (especially on the weightless outro of "Stage or Screen") add dimension to a genre supposedly known for its expansive creativity. During the making of his last album, Nielson jokingly recorded a song called "Two Generations of Excess" with an eight-minute guitar solo, which was never included. The sheer sonic variety on Multi-Love suggests he's still feeling creative and restless. "I didn't want to subscribe to the idea that synths are futuristic and guitars are old-fashioned," he says. "It's not about being a purist." In many ways, the album is Nielson's reckoning with and reinterpretation of the promise of the '60s. Have the ideals from that period of searching optimism, and the corresponding progress towards more fulfilling relationships and a more just society, truly been been met, or as Nielson believes, are we all still searching? Viewed through the prism of today's progress (or lack thereof), Multi-Love speaks to a more complicated and tricky view of love, enlightenment and racial harmony. "Puzzles" literally begins with what sounds like windows shattering and someone sweeping up the pieces of broken glass, an indictment of recent racial tension in Ferguson and elsewhere that show a country off course. "I was listening a lot to Stand by Sly and the Family Stone, obsessing over the lyrics of this multi-racial band and all these different people coming together to make music" says Nielson. "I thought we were getting better. We've had these better ideas of ourselves for decades, but how much have things really changed?" This was also a family affair. His brother, a drummer and former bandmate in Flying Nun punk band The Mint Chicks, as well as his father, a trumpet player who had set a hedonistic example during his childhood, make guest appearances. The song "Necessary Evil" (Transform into the animal you need to / Fly from a destiny infested with chemicals) references Nielson's shared affinity for a hard-partying lifestyle with his father. Revisiting old relationships and loves, reconnecting with family, reinventing your artistic process: what might seem like a series of painful processes liberated Nielson. It's tricky raw material to fashion into something more buoyant and illuminating. He just hopes the searching and reevaluating help others take stock of their own connections and achieve catharsis. "I'm glad I had this opportunity, and if I made someone's life easier with the album, that's the closest reason that exists for making art that I've been able to find," he says.

SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK // Jagjaguwar at SXSW 2013

SWIM.AT.YOUR.OWN.RISK. Jagjaguwar has teamed up with Dead Oceans and Secretly Canadian for an OFFICIAL SXSW SHOWCASE and folks, let me tell you, it’s a real winner. Jagjaguwar artists include Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Foxygen, Small Black and The Besnard Lakes.

The event takes place on THURSDAY, MARCH 14 at RED 7 (611 E. 7th St.), and all with wristbands/badges are invited to attend. Artists will perform on both the indoor and outdoor stages! See the full showcase schedule below (JAG artists shown in bold). You’ll also find all of our artists’ performance schedules at the end of the post.

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DOC/JAG/SC Official Label Showcase

Outdoor Stage

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: 1:00 – 1:45
Phosphorescent: 11:55 – 12:40
Foxygen: 10:55 – 11:35
Bleached: 10:00 – 10:35
Small Black: 9:05 – 9:40
Cayucas: 8:15 – 8:45

Indoor Stage

Akron/Family: 12:35 – 1:20
The Besnard Lakes: 11:30 – 12:15
DIANA: 10:40 – 11:10
Suuns: 9:45 – 10:20
Night Beds: 8:50 – 9:25
Brazos: 8:00 – 8:30

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ARTIST SHOWCASE SCHEDULES:

The Besnard Lakes
3/13 @ 4406 AVE C Pussy Palace (Brooklyn Vegan) 4:30pm
3/13 @ Swan Dive (Planet Quebec) 11:00pm
3/14 @ Red 7 (DOC/JAG/SC Showcase) 11:30pm
3/15 @ Pussy Palace (BUST) 2:00pm
3/15 @ The Ginger Man (Blurt) 4:45pm

DIANA
3/13 @ Empire Control Room (EXFM/Megablaag) 11:00pm
3/14 @ Red 7 (DOC/JAG/SC Showcase) 10:40pm

Foxygen
3/13 @ Stage on Sixth (Paste) 2:00pm
3/13 @ Hype Hotel (Aquarium Drunkard) 11:00pm
3/14 @ Flamingo Cantina (Under the Radar) 2:25pm
3/14 @ Red 7 (DOC/JAG/SC Showcase) 10:55pm
3/16 @ Old Emo’s (Brooklyn Vegan) 12:45pm
3/16 @ Hotel San Jose (SXSJ) 4:00pm

Small Black
3/14 @ Red 7 (DOC/JAG/SC Showcase) 9:05pm
3/15 @ 508 House (C3 – DJ Set) 1:00pm
3/15 @ Lustre Pearle on Rainey (Filter) 9:00pm
3/16 @ Stubb’s BBQ 9:00pm – Official SXSW Showcase w/Vampire Weekend

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
03/13 – 5:30pm – Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop – KEXP Showcase
03/13 – 11pm – Scoot Inn – Life or Death PR Showcase
03/14 – 3:45pm – 1100 Warehouse – Pitchfork Unofficial Day Party
03/14 – 1am – Red 7 – Jagjaguwar Label Showcase
03/15 – 1:50pm – Stubbs BBQ – SPIN Media Official Party
03/16 – 5pm – Old Emos – Brooklyn Vegan

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WATCH // UMO Premiere New “Swim and Sleep (Like A Shark)” Video at VEVO, Announce SXSW Schedule

Just when you thought things could not get any weirder in comes Unknown Mortal Orchestra with a puppet-starred video for their “Swim and Sleep (Like A Shark), ” a track off UMO’s recently released II. The video features some choice activities – watch ABOVE.

Not to be outdone, UMO will head to Austin next week for all the SXSW festivities! See their performance schedule below and check out all their tour dates HERE. They have also just added a free show at New York City’s Seaport Music Festival on June 28th.

SXSW DATES
03/13 – 5:30pm – Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop – KEXP Showcase
03/13 – 11pm – Scoot Inn – Life or Death PR Showcase
03/14 – 3:45pm – 1100 Warehouse – Pitchfork Unofficial Day Party
03/14 – 1am – Red 7 – Jagjaguwar Label Showcase
03/15 – 1:50pm – Stubbs BBQ – SPIN Media Official Party
03/16 – 5pm – Old Emos – Brooklyn Vegan

LATE NIGHT TV DEBUT // UMO Destroy Fallon Stage

Good afternoon fine folks of the interwebs. Last night, Unknown Mortal Orchestra made their late night television debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Our leather daddies wasted no time in getting right down to business. Playing II’s “So Good At Being In Trouble,” UMO destroyed the stage with their performance, and Ruban even threw in a golden god guitar solo at the end. ENJOY ABOVE.

If you like what you see, be sure to catch NPR Music’s live stream of UMO and Foxygen’s gig tomorrow night at Rock & Roll Hotel. Show starts at 9:00 PM ET. Details details details. Lastly, we will wrap this note up by reminding you to check out all the upcoming tour dates!

WATCH // UMO Performs Live for OPBmusic

Ruban Nielson stopped by OPBmusic to perform a stripped down version of II standout track, “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark).” Can you believe Ruban just acquired an acoustic guitar within the last couple of months? It’s hard for us to. Become mesmerized – stream the song above!

Unknown Mortal Orchestra are currently on tour with Foxygen and Wampire, playing Austin’s Mohawk tonight. You can find all their dates HERE.

“Unknown Mortal Orchestra were one of those live acts that could make it feel like an actual orchestra was rampaging through a place. Though there were only three people playing away on stage, their powerful brand of spacey psychedelic rock/pop was impossible to not focus on. The music they played ranged from sing-a-long songs for hallucinogenic drug lovers and people who seek to live out the lyrical scenarios told by Juicy J to material that felt like a condensed version of smoky kraut-rock and jam band grooves.”OC Weekly

Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

From The Sun by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Swim and Sleep (Like A Shark) by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

So Good At Being In Trouble by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Swim and Sleep (Like A Shark) by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

05/07/15
Eugene, OR - WOW Hall  w/ Nurses

05/09/15
Seattle, WA - Barboza  w/ Nurses

05/10/15
Spokane, WA - The Bartlettt  w/ Nurses

05/20/15
Bristol, UK - Thekla

05/21/15
London, UK - Islington Assembly Hall

05/22/15
Coventry, UK - Warwick University  w/ Django Django

05/23/15
Liverpool, UK - Liverpool Sound Society  w/ Django Django

See all upcoming shows

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