22 Apr 2015

Weekly Listening: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Big Dope P, Rihanna and more

10:31 am on 22 April 2015

A revolving cast of contributors from the Music 101 and Wireless teams showcase some of the best new music releases from the past week.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Ruban Nielson.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Ruban Nielson. Photo: Dusdin Condren

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - 'Can't Keep Checking My Phone'

When my friend first told me that Ruban Nielson’s brother (and former Mint Chick) Kody was heading to Portland to work on the new Unknown Mortal Orchestra record I think I may have peed a little. UMO have achieved a cult status in New Zealand not unlike The Mint Chicks, and the only thing more tantalising than a new record from Ruban is one featuring Kody.

‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’ begins with a surprisingly classical intro in much the same way as title track and first single ‘Multi-Love’. However, any concerns about UMO ‘getting serious’ are put to rest with the most infectious beat you’ve heard this side of Tame Impala.

The multi-layered percussion has Kody Nielson written all over it, as does the bass, reminiscent of Opossom jam ‘Blue Meanies’. Meanwhile, Ruban’s much lauded shredding takes a back seat on this one and it feels all the better for it. My guess is it won’t be long before someone calls this the ‘new UMO banger’ or says something about it being ‘festy-ready’, but who cares? This song goes hard. – Ben Leonard

Big Dope P – Hit Da Blokk EP

French club label Moveltraxx have pumped out reliable club bangers for some years, so now seems like a ripe time to see a solid effort from the label’s chief, Big Dope P.

All three original tracks on Hit Da Blokk stem from Dope P’s satisfying flavour of ghetto house/tech, and are generously layered with a wunderkammer of sounds and vocal samples. Each has been given a healthy remix by legends in their respective fields: Rustie, Ikonika, DJ Earl (Teklife) and DJ Tim Dolla (Brick Bandits).

One special mention goes to the rarely seen high quotient of female involvement in the EP, with it being released on Nightwave’s new Glasgow-based label, Heka Trax, and with Ikonika providing the most refined and haptic remix of the lot. Another special mention goes to Chicago footwork producer DJ Earl and his remix of Momma On Da Flo. It’s just beautiful to see ghetto house come full circle to Paris and back. - Sophie Wilson

Rihanna - 'American Oxygen'

In the music video for 'American Oxygen', Rihanna, donned in red white and blue, sings alongside politically driven images – everything from Obama’s inauguration, Ferguson, 9/11, Martin Luther King and other significant American events.

But nowhere amongst the imagery of money, power, cowboys and hard work does Rihanna's 'new America' remember to include the country's indigenous. In the first verse Rihanna croons about being a young girl earning her fortune in a land that's made for those who are willing to work hard. But why not include lyrics that talk about suffocation and oppression?

Some of Rihanna's fans will appreciate the switch from ‘BBHMM’ to a more socially conscious point of view. However, 'American Oxygen' is a montage that only rings true for those unaffected by the world's disproportion of wealth, willing to accept what she says at face value. Is she trying to spark a revolution, or is she trying to tell us to accept that this is how things are? Aleyna Martinez 

Nik Brinkman - 'Looking Out'

‘Looking Out’ is a newest release from Junica frontman, and local short film-maker, Nik Brinkman. More emotionally raw yet simultaneously approachable, the song is appealing in its warmth and optimism, and it represents a maturing confidence in Brinkman’s musical voice.

Teetering comfortably on the edges of multiple genres, the track incorporates the atmospheric qualities of shoegaze blended with rough discordant touches and heavy vocals. It cohesively plays off Brinkman’s melodic sensibilities, thriving on its pulsating, confident beat and polished production. The end result is a refreshing release that illustrates Brinkman’s artistic journey, indented with his past musical explorations and continuing evolutions as an artist. - Elizabeth Beattie

Fucked Up - 'California Gold'

Fucked Up have a formidable back catalogue, four LP's and more EPs, demos, and 7"s than you can shake a stick at. One of threads throughout their tenure is the annually released Zodiac series. While we await the release of the twenty-something-minute behemoth that is 'Year of the Hare' we can listen to that release's b-side ‘California Cold’.

Polarising frontman Damian Abraham barely makes an appearance leaving the track at around the two minute mark. This is where the rest of the band take you on a very unexpected and disorientating journey - the wah'd chords, yelling and rhythm section drop out completely, replaced by bobbing synth pads, a flutter of flutes and woodblocks culminating in an atmospheric, delayed wash.  I hope that the move from hard rock to psychedelia is one that catches on. Zac Arnold

Turnover - 'Humming'

Making waves  in 2013 with their debut album Magnolia, Virginia Beach band Turnover showed that they had shed their clichéd pop-punk tendencies and poised themselves towards a change in sound which could be described as a happy-go-lucky version of Sunny Day Real Estate.

Their latest single, ‘Humming’ marks even more of a change for the band sonically, seeing them move towards what I hesitantly call ‘shoe-gazy’. Turnover hasn’t been the first punk band to do so recently with Title Fight’s latest album Hyperview taking a big step in a different direction for them, trading raw vocals and guitars for a dream-like state of reverb and washed out vocals.

‘Humming” is a reverb laden, jangly and hopelessly melodic trip exploring the uncertainty of growing up, navigating it, and relying on someone else for help in doing so, summoning emotions of yearning, hopefulness and nostalgia. It oddly reminds me of something dream/jangle-pop outfit Real Estate might produce, which if this was Turnover’s intention, is a compliment. – Joshua Thomas

What's your pick? Tell us about it in the comments section.