Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

As far as charmingly shaggy basement/bedroom projects go, Unknown Mortal Orchestra shouldn’t be missed. The brainchild of Ruban Nielson, guitarist in late Portland-by-way-of-Aukland, NZ noise poppers the Mint Chicks (they were on Flying Nun, so you know they were good), UMO matches hooks to beats – some organic, some programmed – to produce a vaguely shambling, always swinging kind of spaced-out indie racket.

The rhythms are a big part of what makes UMO work. Nielsen clearly has a yen for the drum-n-bass side of things, building tight little grooves from organic snare and kick hits, and coating the drum noise in a sorta scratchy, DJ Premier/RZA kind of sound. Which is, you know, rad. Julien Ehrich provides the live drums, with bass notes dropped by Jake Portrait; they’re a solid team, and give Nielson the foundation for his scrappy, psyche-pop guitar workouts.

And Nielson can work his guitar like a true Flying Nun alum. Attacking the instrument from a poppy place, Nielson’s riffs and melodies could be called Beatle-esque, if that still meant anything, and if the Beatles had decided to make most of their songs sound like “I Am the Walrus.” They’re smart, and unexpected, and highly contagious. Listen to “Jello and the Juggernauts” and try to keep it out of your head; the same goes for “Thought Ballune” or “FFunny FFrends” or “How Can U Luv Me.” Some of these jams cop from Motown and Philly Soul (especially “How Can U Luv Me” and “Jello”) in an awesome way, infusing the garage-y aspects with a welcome bit of wounded pride. Elsewhere, Nielson proves there’s plenty of room for raucous good guitar times like the snarling, blown out “Nerve Damage!”

So yeah, Nielson is having a blast here, obviously. UMO is unselfconscious and personal, a way of showing off some influences and blowing off some steam. And it all sounds great. Disheveled and pretty high, but great.

1. FFunny FFrends
2. Bicycle
3. Thought Ballune
4. Jello and the Juggernauts
5. How Can U Luv Me
6. Nerve Damage!
7. Little Blu House
8. Strangers Are Strange
9. Boy Witch

Ed. Note – This review is a continuation of our series on artists and labels effected by the PIAS UK fire (begun here). If you like what you read, we strongly encourage you to go buy the record via UMO’s label, Fat Possum or directly from the band. Thanks!

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Unknown Mortal Orchestra, reviewed by Brandon Gentry on 2011-08-26T11:20:18-07:00 rating 3.9 out of 5

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