Unknown Mortal Orchestra has been making the rounds of the late night shows – with stops on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and in February on Last Call with Carson Daly – and rightly so: the band’s psycho-pop sounds are the stuff of dreams.
UMO, led by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ruban Nielson, will make a stop in Grand Rapids at The Pyramid Scheme on Wednesday, May 18. The sold-out show starts at 8 p.m., with Whitney opening, so you can bet UMO’s synthesizer and Nielson’s vocals will be echoing in the heads of the audience late that night too.
The band is touring in support of its third full-length release – after 2013’s “II” and 2011’s self-titled debut release, on which the band explored everything from techno-pop to lo-fi funk to otherworldly folk. More focused this time out, 2015’s “Multi-Love,” the new album and the lead single on it, is a dive into the deep end of what one reviewer called “psycho-pop”. I’ll not argue.
UMO currently calls Portland, Oregon home and is comprised of Nielson – who hails from New Zeeland – bassist Jake Portrait, keyboardist Quincy McCrary, and drummer Riley Geare.
The songs on the new release you’ve most likely heard, if you caught them late night or you’re into blog radio or SiriusXMU, are “Multi-Love,” “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone,” and “Necessary Evil,” and each deliver modern, if-slightly-strange, love stories.
On “Multi-Love,” Nielson is nearly whispering as he sings: “Multi-Love, checked into my heart and trashed it like a hotel room. Who is your God? Where is she? She wants to bury me in Austin under Uchiko. She don’t want to be a man or a woman.” That’s modern love alright.”
But it is UMO’s layered, techno-pop instrumentations that really make the stuff of dreams.
“Building old synthesizers and bringing them back to life, creating sounds that aren’t quite like anyone else’s. I think that’s much more subversive,” Nielson says on the band’s website about the music.
As someone who reluctantly fell in love with the music and strange storytelling of Death Cab for Cutie, Unknown Mortal Orchestra fits right in with the desired soundtrack of my routine dreams and occasional nightmares.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra & Whitney
When: Wednesday, May 18, 8 pm.
Where: The Pyramid Scheme, 68 Commerce SW, Grand Rapids
Tickets: The show is now sold out. Age 18-plus
More info here.