Passion Blog Week #10: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

From left to right: Jake Portrait (Drums), Ruban Nielson (Guitar & Vocals), Riley Geare (Bass & Vocals)

From left to right: Jake Portrait (Drums), Ruban Nielson (Guitar & Vocals), Riley Geare (Bass & Vocals)

I find it amazing how music can bring up such striking reactions from the human mind. Whether it be memories, stories, feelings, or even visualizations, I cease to be amazed how some musicians can use their sounds to create such vivid pieces of sonic artwork. Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a band that has this magical ability. They use their instruments as tools, like paint brushes or pastels, to produce brilliant pictures on the canvas that is the listener’s mind. Having formed in 2010 with members from New Zealand and the United States, they have already released two albums and have toured Europe, Australia, and North America. To describe their “style” as one genre would be an injustice to their creativity and originality, but it fits in with a lot of other psychedelic rock artists like the Flaming Lips or MGMT. However, don’t let that description fool you. When you strip their music down to its very core you find influences as soul, 60s pop, funk, and 90s alternative if it weren’t for the effects and filters. So really with so much depth, it is truly a unique sound they produce. And that is what I enjoy the most about this band. They don’t play one style, or have one specific tone. Ffunny FFriends, their most well known song off the first album, has obvious neo-psychedelic sounds, with a riff that will be wonderfully stuck in your head, a hip hop like beat, and instrumental breaks that invoke visions of coasting through the universe or cruising through a brilliantly lit cityscape. Thought Ballune, is like a mashup of Sly and the Family Stone and the Beatles of 1967, pulling a groovy bass line together with wonderful vocal harmonies and a punchy chorus and reverb laden guitar to produce a wonderfully vivid sonic portrait. And the guitar solo (my favorite part) sounds like Jimi Hendrix came back from the grave. Finally, the song From the Sun starts of with a beautiful spacy acoustic guitar. When the vocals kick in it has a “Strawberry Fields Forever” vibe, but 3/4 through, its as if David Gilmour shows up and begins to jam, producing a totally different but complementary soundscape. All in all Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a wonderfully interesting and talented group, able to melt the mind or caress the eardrums with their musical masterpieces.

FFunny FFriends

Thought Ballune

From the Sun

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