Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Captain Beefheart, Ariel Pink
When the great Oz behind the curtain of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Ruban Nielson, plays his guitar, it almost looks as though someone found and pressed a fast forward button on his body, fingers flying at a sped up, unnatural pace, as if the song is playing him. It's an effect that matches the band's sound: a pre-meditated approach to experimental funk on speed.
Portland, OR resident Ruban Nielson disbanded his first outfit, the Mint Chicks, a widely successful power pop group in New Zealand where he is from originally, and after vowing to get a day job, started playing around with psychedelic samples in his bedroom. "Ffunny Frends" was the title of that first UMO labeled song, a thrilling four minute and sixteen second avant-garde ditty charged with hallucinogenic hooks and the ever popular charm of lo-fi production. The strange yet catchy melody, now the opening track on their self-titled debut album, went instantly viral. So much steam billowed out around this Bandcamp.com blog-band that both Fat Possum Records and True Panther Sounds jumped on the opportunity to release Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Fat Possum ultimately won the rights to expose this playful psych rock heavy with polychromatic riffs and reverb in the States and released it on June 21, 2011.
Maybe because UMO sounds like UFO, the word "alien" has been used a lot to describe Ruban's high-pitched, striking vocals - they certainly are out of this world and perfectly compliment the band's grungy sci-fi funk. Though UMO's extraterrestrial take on pop might be too unique for the typical mainstream at the moment, they've certainly tapped into the vein of universal appeal; pure catchiness is addicting anyway you slice it.