Around a year ago, Ruban Nielson was ready for a comfortable life of anonymity, ‘searching through the job listings’, and paying the bills. Following the explosive onstage breakup of his former band, The Mint Chicks, the world, and indeed Mr. Nielson himself, expected nothing more. Ruban Nielson Interview.
However, six months after anonymously posting a rough demo on an obscure internet blog, Nielson is in the midst of a European tour, even stopping off at The Albert Hall. Beginning with bedroom-based jam sessions for pure self-enjoyment, he soon began to record the results. Unknown Mortal Orchestra was born.
The day after posting a track onto said blog, the song was picked up and placed on the Pitchfork Playlist. Two days later, calls from major labels began to flood in. ‘Maybe I’m in a coma. I feel like I’m going to wake up in a hospital bed any minute now,’ Nielson jokes. No one could blame him; after all, he’s living the dream of millions of online artists.
Fast-forward to June 2011 and the self-titled, eponymous album Unknown Mortal Orchestra is released to critical acclaim. The album, which he ‘didn’t really consider it as a record at first’, transports the listener through a coherent palate of lo-fi guitars (see Ffunny Ffriends), Hip Hop beats (check Jello and Juggernauts), and dark psychedelia (catch Nerve Damage). Each song ‘congeals from an array of influences. From Frank Zappa to psychedelic Indian songs I was listening to at the time.’ Although the record started off as a psychedelic project, the vast array of Nielson’s influences soon began to accumulate to what is now a very graceful indie record, creating what is a very fresh sound from a collage of exhausted influences. Listening through each track, droplets of influence from The Mint Chicks still remain embedded in the grain of Nielson’s guitar. But from where punk rock left off, the Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s sound is deepened with each play and a greater, wider sense of musicality prevails. ‘The Mint Chicks were a punk band, it was about energy. This is something different.’
Besides what is discernable, a deeper unearthing of the album offers the listener a rare glimmer of an entity usually forgotten: Intimacy. In essence, the record was cradled in a bedroom, and the tenderness of what often comes through the speakers does little to forget this. If anything the Unknown Mortal Orchestra proves two important things. One, that the internet is still the home and lord of undiscovered talent. The second is that no matter how unknown or independent an artist may be, they can still kick the craft out of most mainstream artists. Following sell out London shows, the Unknown Mortal Orchestra are to head back to America, but don’t worry, they’re hoping to ‘syke’ the United Kingdom in August 2011.
The self-titled debut will be out in July on True Panther Sounds. For Unknown Mortal Orchestra tour details see www.unknownmortalorchestra.com.
words Andrew Jessop