Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Fri, April 27
Doors: 8:00 pm
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - (Set time: 10:15 PM)
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, Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman and multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson reflects on relationships: airy, humid longing, loss, the geometry of desire that occurs when three people align. Where Nielson addressed the pain of being alone on II, Multi-Love takes on the complications of being together.
Multi-Love adds dimensions to the band's already kaleidoscopic approach, with Nielson exploring a newfound appreciation for synthesizers. The new songs channel with the spirit of psych innovators without ignoring the last 40 years of music, forming a flowing, cohesive whole that reflects restless creativity. Cosmic escapes and disco rhythms speak to developing new vocabulary, while Nielson's vocals reach powerful new heights. "It felt good to be rebelling against the typical view of what an artists is today, a curator," he says. "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."
While legions of artists show fidelity to the roots of psychedelia, Unknown Mortal Orchestra shares the rare quality that makes the genre's touchstones so vital, constant exploration.
Makeness - (Set time: 9:00 PM)
It’s the contrasts which stand out in Makeness’ (aka Kyle Molleson) music. Crafting tracks which make a virtue of disparate influences, Kyle manages to pull off something difficult: making tirelessly-crafted songs which sound loose-limbed and to-the-point. He comes from a Leeds-born scene which, counting Adult Jazz and Glad Hand amongst its numbers, haven’t pegged themselves to one musical discipline. That network of like-minded friends, and the restless ethos cultivated between them, continues to shape the music Kyle makes on his own.
His debut album, Loud Patterns, is the fullest example of this yet. On the one hand, it’s noticeably indebted to house and techno; there are 4/4 rhythms, and a no-nonsense directness which nods to the likes of Omar-S and Theo Parrish. On the other hand, those dancefloor structures are a vehicle for a wider spectrum of sounds. Channeling avant-garde experimentalism and an outsider’s interest in pop, he embraces the distance between those two poles.
Spending his earliest years on a remote island in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, he was surrounded by Highlands folk music and his dad’s bagpipe bands. Later moving to Dorset, he spent the majority of his time growing up in England’s South West. It was there that Kyle started a band with some school friends, which – with a manager and recording sessions in London under their belt – made it halfway to recording an album.
But it was in Leeds where he made his most important connections. Moving there for university, his school friend and regular collaborator Tom Howe had also moved to nearby York. Finding himself in a flat with Harry Burgess, he was the link between that pair – making a connection that would soon become Adult Jazz. Meanwhile, he helped to form Glad Hand (then-called Fun Adults) with friends-of-friends drawn from the same circle.
At this point, Kyle’s interests in guitar and folk music started to expand outward. He discovered the music of Caribou, whose 2013 ‘Swim’ charted a trajectory similar to the one he was following; the sweet spot it found – between left-of-centre pop and club-minded music – struck a chord with the different spheres Kyle was increasingly drawn to himself. At the same time, Flying Lotus’ output was another big eye-opener; his music, as well as Teebs and other signees to the Brainfeeder stable, pointed to psychedelic, unconventional possibilities for building rhythms.
Cosmic Slop, an underground institution in Leeds, was another touchstone. Based on the fringe of the city centre, it’s a community-oriented party that was started to raise money for their education charity. It boasts a hand-built, peerless sound system, a near-pitch black dance floor and a music policy that ranges from Dilla instrumentals to Detroit house. He recalls, “That place was definitely an awakening in terms of dance music.”
The student enclaves of Headingley and Hyde Park, where he and almost all his friends were based, was an area that lent itself to being creative. Populated by never-ending terraces of cheap student houses, the close-quarters living made for easygoing connections and rehearsals. Plus, the house parties that constantly took place – in the area’s plentiful supply of scuzzy basements – meant opportunities to playing for rowdy, appreciative crowds.
Each summer, he would return to the Outer Hebrides with his extended band mates in tow. His dad built his own studio there, so they would make the journey to all spend a couple of weeks writing and recording. It became an important hub, with both Adult Jazz and Glad Hand releasing debut albums from sessions that took place there.
Having moved to London in 2015, which is when he started working on his solo material, the studio still remains an important finishing-stop for his music. He returned to the Highlands to put the finishing touches to Loud Patterns. Putting the album through the studio’s mixing desk, he also spent time tinkering with the finer details. “They've just got lots of old, broken bits of gear,” he says. “At one point, we had two car batteries and we were holding it up to get the spring reverb to work."
The music on the album, written and recorded with this record in mind, manages to deftly flit between his different interests. Coarse, discordant squeels repeatedly pierce the opening title track, softened by the chorus’ sweetly-sung vocals. Elsewhere, ‘Who Am I To Follow Love’ sketches a goofy-pop aesthetic – with wobbly synth-notes and clattering percussion – as backdrop for endearing vocal harmonies. And in ‘Rough Moss’, there’s a proper, face-melting club banger. With driving, non-stop drums and a squirming bassline, it’s the bedrock for cacophonies of noise: distorted, strummed guitar chords, laser-beam synths and blasts of hiss.
The album arrives after a series of releases that have established his particular, in-between approach to dance-minded music. He put out two EPs on Manchester-based imprint Handsome Dad, a one-off single with Adult Jazz, the self-released ‘Temple Works’ EP and a limited-edition white label for Nic Tasker’s much-feted Whities imprint. The album is set to come via Secretly Canadian, a longstanding giant of independent music. Their genre-spanning output is the perfect home for Kyle’s difficult-to-define approach.
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001