Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Schubas | Concert preview
The fun of Unknown Mortal Orchestra comes from figuring where the hell it’s taking you, not where you’ve heard it before.
It’s good to be confounded by a band, to be at a loss for words when someone asks, “Well, what does it sound like?” The answer to that question should not be two words or less. So where to begin when describing Unknown Mortal Orchestra, a Portland, Oregon, band fronted by a New Zealand expat, Ruban Nielson?
The funky, ramshackle drum loops could be lifted from some grimy rap platter found in a Bronx basement. Clean guitars casually pick and noodle away in some mutant form of trippy, swampy soft-rock. Nielson’s elfish falsetto brings to mind the happy acid melodies of MGMT. The sun-damaged disco of “How Can You Luv Me” and “Strangers Are Strange” bops along on warped basslines. Throw those elements together, and the result vaguely brings to mind Brazilian pop from the 1960s, or Paul McCartney’s scrappiest solo albums, the ones where he sounded alone in a shed on his sheep farm.
The trio’s self-titled debut for Fat Possum, the erstwhile blues label that is seemingly signing every buzz act, is pink and mysterious. This welcoming and playful psychedelia comes transmitted from some unnameable time and place. The fun comes from figuring where the hell it’s taking you, not where you’ve heard it before.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra opens for Yuck.