22.07.2011, Words by Charlie Jones

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

A Portland, Oregon trio releasing on New York label True Panther Sounds, Unknown Mortal Orchestra share with labelmates Glasser, Tanlines and Girls a magical timelessness. Even in these, ahem, post-lateral days, it’s a very peculiar quality – a feeling that the music you’re listening to is so new, like classics from parallel worlds, it sounds more unearthed than recorded. It’s something that Andrew Weatherall chatted about in his recent Dummy interview, dropping a lovely F Scott Fitzgerald quote about a divine vagueness that helps to lift beauty out of time. Old stuff is cool and so is new stuff; stuff that is old and new at the same time is really cool.

Anyway, Unknown Mortal Orchestra have chosen to focus on an earlier template than most knocking about now, jamming on the obscenely melodious sounds of 60s pysche and loose bounce of 70s boogie so well documented on Soul Jazz’s recent compilation. Though it has that good old sun-warped tape hiss throughout, it’s a really fun listen (and, for what it’s worth, incredibly well-mastered), with the sheer power of the harmonies punching out into the world. They’re singalong tracks, each of them, and more than any record released this year, it makes me want to be drunk at closing-time in a Florida bar in the mid-70s with a moustache and friends called Hank and Chad.

I’m not, though, I’m a tense man from London in the 21st century, but there’s enough weirdness lurking to keep me interested. The song titles have an uncomfortable side, intentionally misspelled. Ffunny Ffriends, Strangers Are Strange, How Can U Luv Me, Thought Ballune: the glamour of maladjustment, the reification of unawareness, social, linguistic, or otherwise. Affected, maybe, endearing, totally – what better for a band so proudly out-of-time to shout that they’re out-of-place? It’s so very 21st century – the music may be old but the spelling is totally now.

The cover shows a decayed space-age monument from Tito’s Yugoslavia, one of hundreds that litter the landscape. It’s an incredible shot: still, huge, alien. The feeling is not the blue that tugs you when you look at ruins. It’s more “hey, awesome!” A cool thing, a beautiful thing, from another time, another place and another mind. Yesterday’s tomorrow, on an album of today’s yesterday. While it doesn’t change the world, it’s still pretty cool.


True Panther Sounds released Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s album ‘Unknown Mortal Orchestra’ on the 18th July 2011

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