The Bowery Ballroom
Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Foxygen, Wampire

Thu, February 28, 2013

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

The Bowery Ballroom

New York, NY

$15

Sold Out

This event is 18 and over

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
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.
Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen is the bi-coastal songwriting duo of Sam France (vocals, Olympia, Wash., 22 years old) and Jonathan Rado (guitar/keyboards, NYC, 22). They are the raw, de-Wes Andersonization of The Rolling Stones, Kinks, Velvets, Bowie, etc. that a whole mess of young people desperately need. They create a sometimes-impressionistic, sometimes-hyper-real portrait of sounds from specific places and times. Yet, it never comes across as anything but absolutely modern music. They bring the manic, freewheeling qualities of an artist like Ariel Pink to those aforementioned influences to make for one of the most refreshing listens of the year. They are the real deal and total savants. Their albums are love letters to vinyl collections. Jagjaguwar is proud to share with you Foxygen's bedroom masterpiece, Take the Kids Off Broadway.
Wampire
Wampire
After forming Wampire, Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps steadily began to make a name for themselves in the same Portland, OR, scene that has produced labelmates STRFKR as well as Unknown Mortal Orchestra. It makes sense, then, that Wampire came to Polyvinyl's attention when the duo opened for STRFKR at a hometown Portland show and that UMO's bassist Jacob Portrait produced Wampire's debut full-length, Curiosity.
The choice of Portrait was a natural one, with both Tinder and Phipps believing he'd be able to contribute almost as much to the record as they would. And so, in mid-August Tinder and Phipps each brought fragments of song ideas into the studio, before deconstructing, re-arranging, and fitting them back together piece by piece -- at times lyrics and melodies were thrown out, brought back from the dead, or improvised on the spot.
This loosely structured approach made the process truly collaborative, with producer Portrait occasionally chipping in ideas for lyrics, arrangements, and instrumentation. The resulting nine tracks are instantly memorable, while defying easy categorization. Says Phipps, "We realized the record began to stray away from having a 'sound' and gradually became a platter with an assortment of sounds. The record showcases a flavor we haven't quite dug into before."
The album's diverse combination of sounds ultimately helped give birth to its title, Curiosity -- a word that invokes the listener's wonder at what will greet their ears next, while also describing the overall curious tone the record possesses.
First single, "The Hearse" serves as the perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with the band -- its opening notes swelling instantly with electronic organs over a driving drum beat. By the time bass and vocals kick in, you're already hooked. Elsewhere, "Orchards" weaves an infectiously breezy melody on the strength of vocal harmonizing, tuneful whistling, and undulating guitar lines. In some cases, Wampire's unique rhythms are best described by the band members, as with "Trains," a Motown-meets-Strokes track that Tinder perfectly summarizes like so: "It's sexy, sounds huge, and by all means should be blamed for future babies."
The album concludes with the equally sensual "Magic Light," a song centered around a dark seductive bass groove that sets the tone for Tinder's come-hither lyrics. It's the kind of track that draws you ever further into the record's beguiling clutches, leaving a lasting impression that remains well after its final notes have faded out.
Venue Information:
The Bowery Ballroom
6 Delancey St
New York, NY, 10002
http://www.boweryballroom.com/