You can practically feel the sticky humidity of downtown Hanoi steaming out of your speakers when spinning this unexpected curio from Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Wherever you thought UMO might go after April's acclaimed Sex & Food, no one would have - or could have - predicted an instrumental album of weird and wild, street tough, avant-garde jazz. But here we are.
Or rather, there we are. Because listening to IC-01 Hanoi is like being taken on an aural tour through the sonic underbelly of the city. The seven murky tracks are full of sweaty gat solos, exotic traditional Vietnamese instrumentation and searing, glistening saxophones that rise from the surrounding fog to conjure up a real sense of mood and place.
The songs are titled numerically, leaving you and the feelings the music inspires to fill in the blanks. Hanoi 1 comes blaring noisily out of the gate with the kind of angular, disjointed racket that fans of UMO's Ruban and Kody Neilson's former band The Mint Chicks will be instantly at home with. A minute later it's all over and Hanoi 2 slides in on a fuzzy and loose gat solo over a backdrop that's equal parts krautrock groove and psychedelic-jazz.
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It's on Hanoi 3 where Vietnamese musician Minh Nguyen gets his chance to shine, with a sao truc (a traditional flute) solo painting the city and setting up for the head-nodding, brutally funky groove of Hanoi 4.
Keeping it in the family, the brothers' dad, Chris Neilson and his sax appear on Hanoi 5. But it's not until the album's centerpiece, the nearly 10-minute long, slow burn of Hanoi 6 that he really gets his sax wailing. The album ends not with a whimper but with a whole lot of clanging on the dirgy Hanoi 7.
It's a daring release for a band built on catchy, scratchy indie-funk. And while this successful sonic travelogue won't be for everyone, you can't help but feel the band is fine with that.
Artist: Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Album: IC-01 Hanoi
Verdict: UMO get wild and weird exploring Vietnam and murky, street-tough jazz