Unknown Mortal Orchestra - King Tuts, Glasgow, Wed 1 May 2013
- Harris Brine
- 15 May 2013
Infectious, hallucinatory reveries, marred slightly by too much sound desk tweaking
Perhaps it is shell-shock after their recent propulsive success at SXSW, or possibly their own astonishment at selling out King Tut's on their first UK headline tour, but Unknown Mortal Orchestra turn up tonight as nervous as if it were the first day at nursery; all wide-eyed glances and awkward stances, in their baggy jumpers and backward-worn caps.
Fortunately, it doesn't last long - frontman Ruban Neilson (originally from New Zealand, now based in Portland, Oregon) is in a playful mood, and fills in his band's seventy-five minute canvas with a colourful pastiche of 60s psychedelic lo-fi pop.
The 32-year-old multi-instrumentalist/songwriter exploits whirring synths and drumming solos to seamlessly flow between songs, and at points even hunkers down with bassist Jake Portrait to place emphasis on the drumming transition; 'From The Sun''s handover to 'Strangers Are Strange' being notably strong.
U.M.O's shift from studio to live venue has its benefits, for example the surprisingly impressive instrumentals dropped in tonight, but their love for low fidelity also has its drawbacks. Neilson's acknowledgement of the sound technician as U.M.O's 'fourth member' is telling; the mixing desk is a frantic hub of activity, involving endless changes to the singer's vocals, which at times doesn't make the grade. The difficult conversion is none-more-so evident than during 'Faded In The Morning', wherein the lyrics jump out as weird yelps instead of warped, whirling echoes.
That said, the soulful yearns of 'So Good At Being In Trouble' and 'How Can You Luv Me', the harmless 'Thought Ballune' and 'Bicycle''s shameless lift of Sergeant Pepper's eponymous reprise imbue U.M.O with a kaleidoscopic range more than worthwhile of the ticket price. Finally Tuts' denizens were treated to an impromptu, three-song encore and, ending with 'Ffunny FFrends'.
What started out as a sleepy, creative outlet for the former Mint Chicks member has since metamorphosed into two highly-praised albums and two massive tours, with 2013's lasting until November. Less spaced-out than Australasian alumni Tame Impala, vastly more anthropomorphic than Black Moth Super Rainbow and undoubtedly more accessible on first listen than Animal Collective, U.M.O's infectious, hallucinatory reveries are perfect for those apprehensive to dive headfirst down the rabbit-hole.