Against the everything-in-the-red style of the current lo-fi trend, Ruban Nielson’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra home recording project favours a AM airwave-friendly sound more comparable to outliers like Ariel Pink or Atlas Sound than crunchy Garagebanders Wavves. His is a mellower, “setting-sun” pop sound, deep in references to sixties psychedelia.
Nielson was formerly a guitarist in New Zealand’s experimental noise rockers the Mint Chicks, who were known primarily for onstage chainsaw wielding, destroying PAs and lighting rigs, and once hospitalizing their fans when part of a old venue collapsed when the band was playing too loud. Nielson moved to Portland, Oregon and began the UMO project with producer/bassist Jake Portrait and drummer Julien Ehrlichin in 2009. Despite Nielson’s initial ambivalence about live gigs, interviews or photos, the online press were quick to pick up on some early Bandcamp demos – including album standout “Ffunny Ffriends” – and the following year UMO were signed alongside Yuck, Crocodiles and Smith Westerns as part of cult label Fat Possum’s DIY rock renaissance.
The acclaimed eponymous debut album is richly unpredictable and rewarding, equally influenced by Captain Beefheart and the Beatles. It was recorded at Nielson’s home studio and laced with falsetto howls buried in a warm analogue production. The band was soon touring globally to support the album. And on their tour bus – you hope – was an “a musician’s bedroom is for recording” bumper sticker.
Add to your festival schedule.