Unknown Mortal Orchestra
L'Olympia, Montreal, QC, September 23
Opening for Grizzly Bear on closing night of Pop Montreal were the Portland-based Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The trio released their self-titled debut last year to critical acclaim and blog-fuelled popularity, largely in thanks to mellow psychedelic-funk track "Ffunny Ffrends," containing easily one of the catchiest riffs of 2011. The band name is a bit deceiving, though; Unknown Mortal Orchestra aren't really an orchestra so much as a guitar-bass-drums trio who make some vintage-sounding rock.
Over the course of the set, their style made leaps between high-calibre blues rock and grimy surf rock. However, the band's live sound deviates noticeably from what their studio-recording sound and production would have you expect. It's unclear whether this was due to a lack of a proper soundcheck (an all-too-common malady for opening acts) or to an assertive effort to be heard, but Kiwi frontman Ruban Nielson's vocals perhaps benefit more from the analog-fuzz effects added in the studio, as his voice came off as a bit raw in the live mix.
Unfortunate sound mixing aside, Unknown Mortal Orchestra were a decent fit with the Brooklyn-based headliner — at their best, they're kind of like Grizzly Bear's psychedelic little brother. Here's hoping they get a decent sound check next time around.
To see Exclaim!'s Pop Montreal photo gallery, head here.
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