Published Oct 23, 2018Ruban Nielson has never been one for repetition. Case in point: in parallel to Unknown Mortal Orchestra's kaleidoscopic discography, the musician has been releasing a lengthy electronic instrumental every year for Christmas for half-a-decade now. Titled sequentially from SB-01 to SB-05, those EPs sort of maintain the spirit of a UMO album, but with none of their obsession for details, layering slabs of chillwave synths and distorted guitars with all the enthusiasm of a scientist gone mad.
Similarly, the unexpected HC-01 Hanoi is published just in time for Halloween. Recorded during the making of Sex & Food, with frequent collaborators, family members and local musicians, this side release is a much more serious object. As a whole, it feels less like a sketchbook come to life and more like a laboratory of hermetic fusion jazz and avant-garde rock, which isn't to say it's devoid of charm.
HC-01 is at its best when it let's you catch glimpses of Unknown Mortal Orchestra's previous work. For instance, album opener "Hanoi 1" would sit well as a "Faded in the Morning" B-side, while Chris Nielson saxophone flourishes on "Hanoi 2" and "Hanoi 6" are reminiscent of his work on the stellar Multi-Love.
If nothing else, you have to admire UMO's commitment for releasing a project that could easily turn fair weather fans into un-followers, but then again, maybe that was Ruban Nielson's intent all along. (Jagjaguwar/Outside)