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Unknown Mortal Orchestra: 2018

Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Ruban Nielson (photo by Brian Gallagher)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra's Ruban Nielson (photo by Brian Gallagher)



When Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson began thinking about songs for his fourth album, he decided that he needed a break from his usual process — usually a blurry-eyed combination of insomnia and all-night recording at his Portland home studio.

So Nielson, joined at various times by bassist Jake Portrait and his brother, drummer Kody Nielson, travelled the world instead, finding inspiration in far-flung locales like Hanoi, Mexico City, Reykjavik and his native Auckland, New Zealand.

The result of that globe-trotting experiment is Sex & Food, an arresting album that ricochets between fuzzed-out freakouts, like the Jimi Hendrix-inspired “American Guilt,” and gentle, jazzier jams.

Nielson made a return visit to Studio A this spring, joined by his Unknown Mortal Orchestra bandmates, brother Kody and Portrait, plus new keyboardist Thomas Mabus. The band played two songs from Sex & Food, and Ruban talked about his travels, surviving an earthquake in Mexico City, and his never-ending admiration of Prince.

[recorded: 4/25/18]