Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra in London

About three months ago I reviewed the sophomore album, II, by Kiwi-fronted, US based, Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Without knowing a thing about them, I was led only by the fuzzy warmth and vintage psychedelia beaming from my iPod speakers. All together, melodic and complete, yet somehow very undone. Perfectly so.

Naturally I was excited when a friend emailed me with a spare ticket for their gig at the Village Underground in Shoreditch, last week. Support unknown, but who cared, as tonight was all about Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

Well…kind of.

As it turns out, the support did matter. In the form of Splashh, UK band of the moment. Aware of their sound and the soft hype which has surrounded them, I was expecting a run of the mill indie pop soundtrack. Shuffling on stage like a bunch of begrudged school boys, we were no sooner swayed, romanced, beautified and shot straight back to a Ride-Carnival of Light-era 90’s, when boys in bands sported shaggy fringes, half smiles and loose jeans. Channeling an ‘of the moment’ psychedelia, Splashh possess a stoned halo and not happy til we’re all riding high too, they give us one jangly, hazy gem after the other. Looking forward to their full length album to be released early June.

UMO walk onstage to a full house, opening with a track from what I assume is their critically acclaimed first record. Anticipating something akin to one of those gorgeous, psychedelic moments from II, second song begins and I’m wondering why it all sounds is so distant and disconnected, I just can’t manage to get my head inside the music yet. But that’s cool, maybe the next track will change all that. However, an unnecessarily long drum solo makes sure we don’t get there for a while.

After a few more unrecognisable tracks, we finally we get to From the Sun, blistering opener from II, which casts a warm shadow over the audience. I’ve no doubt in a smaller venue Unknown Mortal Orchestra would be more able to mirror the intimacy of their recordings. Hailed by everyone from Pitchfork to NME and beyond, the band are renown for that closeness and vintage fuzziness which is sadly lost in a venue of this size.

No less in love with their record however, I’m hoping to experience their musical tenderness in a more appropriate venue soon.

golden lady
Words by Golden Lady