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Album Review – Unknown Mortal Orchestra: “Multi-Love”

on May 6, 2015

Multi-Love-by-Unknown-Mortal-Orchestra-FULL

Some say that after the first couple albums, many bands can lose that certain thing the French call “je ne sais quoi”. Taking a big funky psychedelic piss on that sentiment however, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, back with their third studio album, Multi-Love, still fucking have it. And no, Pitchfork, UMO isn’t planning a big do-away with their “six-string wizardry”, although the new album does cross genre boundaries and lovingly diversifies lead instrumentation.

While ultimately expanding on the breadth of their previous work, exploring further into themes of funk, neo R&B, and dance music, Multi-Love reinforces the core driving qualities behind guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Ruban Nielson’s arresting musical craft: active, driving and wobbly bass grooves; a charming, unassumingly soothing lower-register falsetto; and an ever-evolving mastery of synthesizers and tone. If I had to be trapped, for life, in a rental somewhere in Stockton, Ca with only four songs from Multi-Love, I would choose, in no particular order, the album’s title-track, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone,” “The World Is Crowded,” and “Necessary Evil.”

When banging out on dance floors across the globe, the drum fill near the one minute mark in opening title track “Multi-Love,” bridging the airy piano ballad into an all out electronic, intergalactic orgy, is sure to work participants into a clamor. Another tune I can’t see not getting significant play time, and following in a similarly dancy manner, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” is driven by an electronic breakbeat and an accompanying assault of busy (but not too busy) upbeat bass work, that serve as a framework for overlay of revival synth swells and Nielson’s powerful crooning. But perhaps the most sultry tune on the album, “The World Is Crowded” takes a slower, funkier, R&B approach to UMO’s blend of psych-pop, with a rhythm section deep in the pocket, and layered, harmonizing vocals that beg the age-old sexy question of, “ohh / the world is crowded / did your doctor prescribe me?” And finally, “Necessary Evil,” bolstering stylistics more reminiscent of the band’s debut album and II with active vocal melodies in sync with guitar noodling, is accentuated by a jubilant trombone walk, and a juxtaposing, evil and pulsing layer of sub-octave synth to round it out. »

– Travis Leipzig



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