Free, compelling and energetically driven, Unknown Mortal Orchestra brought infectious vivacity through their self-described ‘depression funk’ at Cambridge Junction this week. Just as ‘depression funk’ suggests, their music explores dark themes laced with exuberantly infused psychedelic grooves. Their music is as equally multivalent as it is specific and determined. The band really captured that authentically fuzzy high that makes live music so thrilling to watch, as they musically bounced off each other with such playful disposition. From Ruban Nielson’s ultimate guitar solos, impromptu drum breakdowns from Riley Geare and keyboard virtuosos from Quincy McCrary; the use of dynamics and mastery on stage from UMO built intense atmosphere and swell into their live set. It was such a fantastically irresistible emanation to witness.
The crowd were all extremely responsive and sang along to songs across all three of their previously released LPs: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II and Multi-Love. Reminding us accordingly that tracks like ‘Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)’, ‘FFunny FFriends’ and ‘So Good at Being in Trouble’ appear to have barely aged at all in sound and subject matter. I believe there is something so incredibly relatable and real about ‘depression funk’ or ‘psychedelic R&B’. One reason why so many people engage and love UMO’s music is their amalgamation and ultimate carnival of such a wide range of influence. If anything this is Nielson’s greatest achievement, encapsulating both the light and shade to life through such creative innovation and cultural direction in UMO.
The band finished their set playing ‘Multi-Love’, the title track of their latest album before playing a triple encore after the crowd lovingly cheered back. The encores included catchy crowd favourites ‘Necessary Evil’ and ended with endearingly jittery yet groovy ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’. As everyone left on a climactic peak I can’t help but think that their laid-back and sunny music is perfectly suited for Festival stages. I’m seriously hoping I can see them live again at some point, but this time amongst the masses.
Words from Jess Bartlet
Photos by Rich Etteridge