New Zealand/American-based psychedelic alternative band Unknown Mortal Orchestra began to make waves with their 2013 release II, which won the Best Alternative Album at the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards. The success eventually carried over to the States, performing the single “So Good At Being In Trouble” for their American television debut the same year. With the bar set high, UMO are set to trump their highly acclaimed sophomore album with their third collection: Multi-Love. Flowing with vintage, soulful influences, and futuristic, lo-fi/psychedelic textures, the latest UMO album is a unique experience and a captivating journey from start to finish.
Opening with the title-track, Multi-Love gradually shifts over the course of the album from the colourful, ‘60s-pop track “Multi-Love” to the eventual garage/psych-rock track “Puzzle”. Along with the changing sound, the emotions behind the music seem to shift from an airy, free-flowing vibe to something sharp and unfiltered. Lead singer/band leader Ruban Nielson found the inspiration for the album from his experience with “multi-love”. Nielson and his wife fell in love with the same woman, then invited her to live with them, but she eventually left, leaving the couple to deal with their emotions and heartbreak. The relationship’s timeline shadows the music, and as mentioned before, the sound begins to shift.
Touching on elements of ‘60s/70s pop and soul, “Multi-Love”, “Like Acid Rain”, and the especially groovy “Ur Life One Night” open the album with vibrant hooks, catchy, gated rhythm, and smooth, Technicolor melodies; Unknown Mortal Orchestra create a clean balance between raw production quality, and audio-hallucinogen tactics.
“Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty” is where the album begins to shift from bright and bubbly, to passionate and slow moving. “The World is Crowded” follows closely behind with ‘70s-esque groove.
Contrasting the opening tracks from Multi-Love, the final few are still layered with warm, pop hooks, but have changed gears to something cool, and somewhat remorseful. “Necessary Evil”, with its soft horn parts and laid-back vocals from Nielson, can easily be compared to previous work from past albums.
Bold, and intricately shaped, “Puzzle” brings Multi-Love to a close, switching between slow-burning, acoustic fashion, and suddenly unleashing into blues-rock roots. “Puzzle” is the final piece of the relationship-based record, with Nielson delivering an effect-laden chorus of “I don’t want to solve your puzzle anymore”.
After the success of II, Unknown Mortal Orchestra pushes themselves further with the psych-pop collection Multi-Love. The varying nature of the songs, although within the same psychedelic realm, make for an engaging and enjoyable experience. The band’s third album has the band producing more polished, influential music, but without losing their signature lo-fi, garage sound. Stream the full album via the Guardian.