The music-makers in Unknown Mortal Orchestra aren't known for their spelling. With singles titled "Ffunny Ffriends" and "How Can U Luv Me," the Portland, Ore., trio have probably made at least a few English teachers squirm, even with the infectious psych-rock melodies.
After frontman Ruban Nielson launched the project, "unknown" was a fitting descriptor. Despite fronting a popular noise-pop band in his native New Zealand, Nielson had little name recognition in the U.S. To make matters worse, he didn't fill out the bio section of his Bandcamp profile when he unveiled "Ffunny Ffriends" late last year.
As Nielson explained to Under The Radar, a lack of information can actually be a hell of a promotional tool. "The only reason there wasn't any information was because I didn't have any," he told the magazine. "I wasn't really thinking about putting any information up about it because it wasn't a band." Unsure who had posted the prismatic gem, frenzied bloggers began to speculate. Some postulated that Captain Beefheart had risen from the dead, and others wondered if Ariel Pink had been cutting basement tapes.
Nielson was fascinated as he watched the drama unfold, so fascinated that he didn't want to disturb the process. Bloggers began emailing his Bandcamp profile, musing that secret bands are the next big thing. He laughed as the laptop scribes framed his utter lack of effort as viral-marketing genius.
Then heavy hitters joined the fray, steering the discussion toward the music. Pretty soon, Spin was streaming UMO's self-titled debut LP, and the L.A. Times was buzzing about the band's similarities to Jamie Lidell. The bloggerati at Stereogum described the album as a "funkier Ween tackling Elephant 6, blending New Age '70s recording techniques with that recent lava lamp/black-lit bedroom aesthetic."
It's an inspired collection of tunes, bridging the gap between out-there psychedelic jams and Beatles-inspired sing-along melodies. Hear it live - and meet the man behind the mystery - July 14 at Memorial Union Terrace.