Pop & Hiss

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra signs with Fat Possum, will play the Echoplex

April 8, 2011 | 12:11 pm

The brainchild of Portland, Ore., resident Ruban Nielson, the Unknown Mortal Orchestra earned their stripes the new fashioned way. They released a song on Bandcamp last year and it got written up rapturously by blogs with funny names. Now it's getting written up by a newspaper blog with a funny name. This is the way the music Internet works.

Recruiting a band to play shows, Nielson has yet to realize his orchestral intimations. Instead, his crew carves a thrashing psych-rock that threatens to wake the walking dead. Their bio describes them as "Captain Beefheart, Sly Stone and RZA jamming on a creepy, never-released kid’s show."

There are known knowns and then there are known unknowns, and the group is fast falling into the latter category, inking a deal to release their debut on Fat Possum. Live, they evidence shades of a cross between an American Jamie Lidell and a baby-faced Black Sabbath. Boasting the potential to warrant the incipient notoriety, they play a junkyard rock that's in short supply by groups outside of San Francisco (see also: Wooden Shjips, Fresh & Onlys, Sic Alps, Moon Duo).

Their latest single, "How Can U Love Me," tests my patience for text message titles, but redeems itself with its dirty dusted pop. Splitting the difference between Stones Throw soul and Sub Pop indie rock, the UMO temper their over-familiarity with their excellent ear for melody.

They play the Echoplex on Friday and Saturday night with the Naked and Famous.


MP3: Unknown Mortal Orchestra -- "How Can U Love Me"

-- Jeff Weiss