All this week, the Song of the Day will profile performing artists at this weekend’s Austin Psych Fest
It can be hard for any person to retain anonymity nowadays, let alone a musical artist, but that’s exactly how Unknown Mortal Orchestra introduced itself. In 2010, UMO’s song “Ffunny Ffrends” popped up online, going viral in a matter of months. Bloggers and fans scrambled to find out who the creators were, to no avail. Finally, a musician named Ruban Nielson unmasked himself and claimed he was the man responsible.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s self-titled debut came in 2011, and even the music itself is somewhat mysterious. Positioned somewhere between psychedelia, funk, and glam, the LP is a world in itself. Nielson, who hails from New Zealand, recorded the album with two other musicians in his Portland, Oregon home studio. Even with this unassuming background, Unknown Mortal Orchestra caught on, winning the Taite Music Prize for album of the year by a New Zealand artist.
It could be hard to tap back into that intrigue after winning the world’s attention, but Unknown Mortal Orchestra did just that with last year’s II. It’s a moodier record, chronicling the ups and downs of a touring band on the rise. “Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)” perfectly captures that kind of modern restlessness with its atmospheric take on R&B. The band impressed in Studio 1A, retaining their darkness while bringing live energy to their songs. It’s hard to know where to place Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but that’s a good problem to have.
Catch Unknown Mortal Orchestra on the Reverberation Stage, Saturday, May 3 at 9:30pm.