While everyone was stranded in their old place due to Covid, Ruban Nielson decided to relocate from Portland to Palm Springs. Something there reminded him of his childhood, spent between New Zealand and Hawai’i, following his parents as they worked as performers in hotels and resorts. Before the global lockdown, he flew his brother and bandmate Kody to California, and the pair started recording, immersed in that familiar environment. The two reminisced about the music that played when they were kids, and the yacht rock, West Coast AOR, ’80s pop and easy listening came together to form a soft shape around which to smooth the sharp edges of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s previous sound, adjusting the psychedelic, hard-rock, and disco spikes in a soothing new palette.
Having to return to Hawai’i for family matters, the Nielsons reconnected with traditional hapa-haole music, letting all their past and history become the trait d’union for the record they were creating. The result is V, UMO’s fifth record and their first double album. It’s unquestionably their best so far.
Playing with instrumental pieces and lyrics musing on mortality and humanity, the 14 tracks present a mature and balanced sound. Ruban Nielson’s signature filtered voice glides on a sea of guitar and synths without a crease, always in full control. An hour of music that gives the same satisfaction as reading an insightful book on a sun-kissed day.
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