Unknown Mortal Orchestra spins cotton candy from a dumpster fire. The lofi indie band is well known for their groovy, psychedelic and layered sound that skirts genre definitions with each song and album.


UMO rocked a cozy but packed show at the Top Hat Lounge on July 23.


Fronted by New Zealander Ruban Nielson, the band set out to record their latest album, ‘Sex & Food,’ by traveling all over the world. Recording in studios from Seoul to Mexico to Hanoi, it seemed inevitable that their travels would mold their sound into mindful music, with socially conscious and heavy lyrics sifted through an acid disco.


Ruban’s brother Kody Nielson accompanied the band on drums, which, thanks to generous mixing, punched through the watery synths and got everyone up and moving. They were accompanied by longtime bassist Jake Portrait, who also played a sampler, and Thomas Hoganson on keys/synth.


The tones and softness of Nielson’s voice seemed to romanticize the heaviness of some of the subjects of their songs, cracking through to cathartic explosions of angst and distortion.


The Portland-formed band has put out four albums and five instrumental jams that range from 10 to 30 minutes in length, covering swathes of genre focuses, from ambient to hard grunge rock within the span of seconds.


During ‘American Guilt,’ lead single off of ‘Sex & Food,’ is example of the departure from their usual sound that compounds the messages of the album. Nielson strained his voice, singing about the excess of American opulence.


Hearing UMO, the sheer depth of their songwriting and composition creates beautiful dance songs that prod you to think... if you listen closely.