Thursday, February 18, 2016

Unknown Mortal Orchestra -- 9:30 Club - Feb 17 2016

by John Miller

Out of four potential shows this week, only one was successful in regards to being able to review. Whether it be prior engagements, miscommunication, or outright denial, this week as been particularly trying. Tonight was no exception, however after things were quickly ironed out, entry was obtained to this evening's show at the 9:30 Club. Unfortunately due to an uncharacteristically busy Wednesday night, I was unable to catch the opening act.

There is comfort in the familiar; smells, late night snacks, music. From the opening piece, Unknown Mortal Orchestra is just that, familiar. That's not to say it feels trite or well worn; familiar doesn't always have to be bourgeois. The music builds, and vocals feel secondary. Layers of sound built on classic rhythmic patterns; building the frame before the roof. The undercurrent of the bass, coalescing with the synthesizer is a dangerous combination; familiar enough to lead the most uncoordinated to believe it's okay to try and dance. The drums too, are exceptionally steady; leading the marathon.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is a band that is deeply seeped in nostalgia. It's dangerous; the comfort that the past provides often leads to complacency, however if properly harnessed, the familiar can be a powerful tool. There is always this sense that the synth has one of its many oscillators turned to 1978, that they lean a little too much on the occasional jam, that structurally, songs aren't challenging. But then you realize that you've been sitting here, engaged for the last hour and a half. Yes, while it is certainly familiar, they are never beholden to the past, just familiar enough to make you feel comfortable enough to make you think you can sing along. While Unknown Mortal Orchestra may have their collective head looking over their shoulder, tonight they march forward.

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