Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s third studio album, Multi-love, isn’t something you’ve heard before. If I had to sum up Ruban Nielson’s newest effort in a few words, it’d be this: Listening to Multi-Love is like traveling in a Prince powered rocket ship of psychedelia through the fringes of sanity, deep into disco-space. If that doesn’t sound confusing enough, may I also inform you that the memories of a failed polyamorous relationship forms the inspiration behind most of the album’s lyrical content. Certainly, Multi-Love isn’t your average indie-pop record. It’s a dense, haunting vision with a groove that unravels at the seams. However, that groove always finds a way to keep tight. By the end you will have danced your way to somewhere far past mental stability, and you’ll be happy to have made the visit.
The title track introduces the album with a light keyboard riff that’s both simple and unique. It’s something that wouldn’t feel quite out of place in one of UMO’s earlier ballads, yet the familiar sounding introduction quickly ends when the drums decide to kick in out of nowhere. It’s a clear signal that not only will the rest of the song be journeying towards some unknown destination, but the rest of the album as well. The song marches on as an otherworldly synth rhythm is married alongside a 70’s-esque funk bassline, producing a groove that’s just as infectious as it is untraditional. I can’t imagine hearing a more fitting backdrop to tell a tale of a demised love triangle, and Nielson doesn’t flounder the chance in the slightest. The real sense of vulnerability and anguish found in his vocals (especially in the lyric, “we were one, now become three”) succeeds in creating a state of mind where it’s not only possible to emphasize with all his confused heartbreak, but in many ways it’s unavoidable. For everyone who hasn’t partaken in this kind of relationship (i.e. me), it’s a peculiar feeling to find yourself beginning to understand.
I don’t want to overemphasize the title track-while it was probably the lead single for a reason-after repeated listenings it’s apparent that the rest of the album has just as much kick to it. A feeling of sensory overload is bound to happen within the first couple run throughs, but it’s no worry-the burn is slow. Nielson’s experimentation into all kinds of different musical influences is supposed to be a bit jarring and somewhat conflicting, but after time it clicks together. Who other than Nielson would have thought that something like the disco/latin fusion of Can’t Keep Checking My Phone, or the horn/synth pairing in Necessary Evil, would actually work alongside each other? Thankfully, Multi-Love does so triumphantly. If it’s given it the sweet time that it deserves, it will be rewarding in ways that nothing else can hope to replicate.
By: Joe Cowden