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After disbanding New Zealand's the Mint Chicks, Portland, Oregon's Ruban Neilson planned to quit music and take on a day job. For a hobby, he started making psychedelic demos in his basement using samples. Soon, music took over as a career again, and his fun brand of experimental pop ended up in the hands of Fat Possum Records, who released Unknown Mortal Orchestra's self-titled debut in the early summer of 2011. As interest in the project grew, Neilson enlisted the help of a full band for a promotional tour and then signed with Jagjaguwar for UMO's sophomore album, II. During the tour, Neilson was often asked to pop in to radio stations and play a couple songs. Having just picked up acoustic guitar, he saw this as a chance to explore a different sound and style, which he documented on 2013's EP Blue Record. Recorded to one mike in his basement, the record is made up of three songs from II and covers of Dirty Projectors and Beck.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra is an American and New Zealand rock band composed of singer, guitarist and songwriter Ruban Nielson, bassist Jake Portrait and drummer Riley Geare. The band was started by Nielson (formerly of The Mint Chicks).
ContentsHistory1.1 Formation1.2 Unknown Mortal Orchestra1.3 II
Singer and guitarist Ruban Nielson released the track "Ffunny Ffrends" on his Bandcamp profile in the spring of 2010. It was paired with no further information and notably no mention of who created it. Soon, popular bloggers got hold of the track. Through their reposting and attempts to hunt down the creator, Nielson eventually claimed the track as Unknown Mortal Orchestra's.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
The band's debut self-titled album was released June 21, 2011 on Fat Possum Records. The album quickly received critical acclaim. Pitchfork gave the album an 8.1, describing that with "an expert use of space rare for such a lo-fi record, UMO manages a unique immersive and psychedelic quality without relying on the usual array of bong-ripping effects."
In the spring of 2012, the band won the Taite Music Prize for the album. Although the nominated Unknown Mortal Orchestra did not win Best Alternative Album, Nielson took home the title of Best Male Artist at the 47th annual Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.
In September 2012, Unknown Mortal Orchestra announced that they had signed to Jagjaguwar and were working on their second full-length album. Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s second album is titled II and was released on February 5, 2013. The first single from the album, entitled "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)", was first available as a 7" on their tour with Grizzly Bear.
II has received widespread critical acclaim. In November 2013 it won Best Alternative Album at the New Zealand Music Awards. II was nominated for the Taite Music Prize 2014, an annual music prize awarded for the best album from New Zealand. Clash Music gave the album a 9 out of 10, saying "from opener ‘From The Sun’, which recalls George Harrison-psychedelia, to the tender Family Stone shuffle of the closing of ‘Secret Xtians’, ‘II’ displays both a glowing warmth in its production and a deft use of space that illuminate Nielson’s superbly crafted compositions.” Paste Magazine called the album "a modern, beat-heavy take on ‘60s psych, with plenty of hooks and fuzz to get you hooked and feeling fuzzy.” NME praised Ruban's ability to turn his songs into "works of warm, fuzzy beauty."
During the winter of 2012, Unknown Mortal Orchestra capitalized on the success of II and embarked on a world tour. The tour started off with shows in Australia, and hometown shows in New Zealand, followed by several stops in Europe. The band then toured extensively throughout North America with opener Foxygen. In March 2013, Unknown Mortal Orchestra was named one of Fuse TV's 30 must-see artists at SXSW. Unknown Mortal Orchestra consistently sold out shows in both the UK/Europe and in North America, and as a result of their success on the road they announced in early April that they would extend their tour through the end of 2013. That summer the band performed at a number of major European festivals, including Roskilde Festival, Pukkelpop and Lowlands.
On February 25, 2013, Unknown Mortal Orchestra made their American television debut, performing "So Good At Being In Trouble" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
On October 29, 2013, the band released an EP called the Blue Record. It included three acoustic versions of songs taken from their previous album."Who Is Unknown Mortal Orchestra?". The Corner. Retrieved on February 27, 2012 Hyman, Dan (December 4, 2012). Listen Up: Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Elle. Retrieved on December 7, 2012 Cohen, Ian, (June 22, 2011). Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Pitchfork. Retrieved on December 7, 2012 "UMO Wins Tate Music Prize". stuff.co.nz. April 20, 2012. Young, Alex (November 28, 2012). Unknown Mortal Orchestra announces 2013 tour dates. Consequence of Sound. Retrieved on December 7, 2012 "Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II | Reviews | Clash Magazine". Clashmusic.com. 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2013-05-20. "Watch Unknown Mortal Orchestra Play Fallon". Stereogum. 2013-02-26. Retrieved 2013-05-20. "NME Album Reviews - Unknown Mortal Orchestra - 'II'". Nme.Com. 2013-01-31. Retrieved 2013-05-20. "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Plot Tour". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved 2013-05-20. "30 Must-See Acts at SXSW 2013 - Photos - South by Southwest - Festivals - Fuse". Fuse.tv. 2013-02-28. Retrieved 2013-03-07. "ALBUM ANNOUNCE // Unknown Mortal Orchestra Announces Acoustic 'Blue Record' EP, Out 10/29 Blog :: JAGJAUWAR". Jagjaguwar. Retrieved October 22, 2013.