The well-known term “instrumental sessions” typically sparks fear into the hearts of any fan of any artist when associated with their upcoming project, usually being an umbrella term for half-baked ideas passed off as too “left-field” for the A-sides. The Hanoi sessions of the previous Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO) project Sex & Food seemed different however with the extra influence of Vietnamese musician Minh Nguyen giving the project an appearance more of a distinct entity with separate ambitions rather than dregs of a prior work.
The manic opener ‘Hanoi 1’ seemed to act as a mission statement for UMO, who clearly felt newfound freedom from this non-album format. ‘Hanoi 2’ drastically changes the mood, with it engaging in the ethereal psychedelic rock UMO are so familiar for, laid back as if coming from a smoke-filled, dimly lit room. The best moments in the tracklist come later, with the incredibly slick transition between the disco-tinged groove of ‘Hanoi 4’ and the hypnotic saxophone driven ;Hanoi 5;. Tracks like this are where the reported Miles Davis inspiration is proudly displayed on the sleeve of the band. This culminates in the epic jazz masterpiece ‘Hanoi 6’ where instead of the jazz influence being an afterthought, this jazz psychedelic marriage the band aim for meet in perfect harmony. When the influence of a figure as prominent as Miles Davis is the driving force of your project, it becomes very easy to drown in your influences. What is presented on the standout track ‘Hanoi 3’ is the perfect subversion to that with Nguyen’s Vietnamese earth flute solo perfectly demonstrating the east being inspired by the west when so often it’s a lazy, superficial version of the reverse.
Whilst IC-01 Hanoi is a short journey, the dark yet somewhat inviting atmosphere it creates with UMO’s typical psychedelia and jazz influences creates a welcome addition to an impressive catalogue.
Image Credit: zoeposthoc via Wikimedia Commons