Unknown Mortal Orchestra embody the immediacy of the music industry as we know it today. They are a modern band. And they aren't extraordinary in this.
Existing as one track on a Bandcamp late last year, the song "Ffunny Ffriends" found itself on every hype-worthy blog, as if it were the digitally wheat-pasted onto some highly coveted real estate: Gorilla vs. Bear, Spin, Yours Truly, Pitchfork and it's avant-garde little sister, Altered Zones. It was all for good reason -- the track was undeniably good. Furthermore, their virtual obscurity (one track, no context, no bios) made for a perfect formula for success. The band got signed to the coveted Fat Possum label, still with barely much else to reveal.
While every other indie band was busy pitching bloggers, pleading for a tweet a "like" or whatever attention they could muster, Unknown Mortal Orchestra was playing hard to get. Their lack of online presence is the ultimate cool. They know their music is good, you can listen to it, but they won't make you. It's sort of like every guy I liked in high school -- except their obscurity was unfortunately veiled under JNCO jeans
The band consists of Ruban Nielson, a New Zealander transplanted to Portland because of a previous band. He's joined by Jake Portrait on bass and Julien Ehrich on drums. Their music is a patchwork of different sounds and genres, touted as psychedelic, soul and funk while compared to Ariel Pink, Sly Stone, the Kinks, Paul McCartney and probably a handful of other unrelated acts.
Their fuzzed out lo-fi quality sound, repetition and soulful rhythms are near-spooky. Their name is kind of awful -- but remember: That's what makes them good. And their blog popularity is unparalleled. Indie bands: take note!
Unknown Mortal Orchestra will be opening for Yuck at the Casbah on July 29, but they probably didn't need to tell you that, anyway.
Nada Alic runs the San Diego-based music blog Friends With Both Arms and works in artist relations for the nonprofit organization Invisible Children. Follow her updates on Twitter or contact her directly.