Unknown Mortal Orchestra frontman Ruban Nielson is a freakishly talented guitar player with a musical vision that requires him to exercise a great deal of restraint -- at least in the studio. That discipline has yielded one of this year's unique gems in the form of UMO's debut full-length, released last month on Oxford's Fat Possum Records. It's not that you can't hear his chops on the album. Beautiful guitar work bubbles to the surface repeatedly across the consciously retro, echoless production. My current favorite track is a great example:
If you listened to "Nerve Damage" above, you may be wondering what the hell I mean by "restraint". The best answer I have is that you must see this band live and 'unrestrained' to appreciate it. Nielson, formerly of the New Zealand band Mint Chicks, relocated to Portland and has hooked up with a blast furnace of a rhythm section in bassist Jake Portrait and drummer Julien Ehrlich. I had the unexpected thrill of seeing them at King's in Raleigh a few months ago opening for another band. Nielson, who doesn't play with a pick, launched into some of the most blistering leads I've ever seen. It was the sort of thing that might make you think you were at a Joe Satriani concert, except these leads were tasteful departures from actual songs. And by actual songs, I mean convincing funk and psychedelia that are by turns fresh and nostalgic, like this:
They're touring heavily right now, and probably will be your area at some point. Here's a nice clip from a recent show that'll give you an idea of what UMO can do live:
And here's another track from the album called "Bicycle" that has a groove normal people just cannot resist. Have a good weekend folks.
Here are their band website and their Fat Possum site. You can buy their record there, as well as tickets to their shows. Don't miss either.