The new album Multi-Love from Unknown Mortal Orchestra sees a heady mixture of styles and inspirations. In fact, the album is packed with influences from the huge melting pot that exists in Ruban Nielson’s mind. At times it feels like we have been given privileged access to an internal back catalogue.
Nielson who produced and engineered the whole album is fast becoming the new crown prince of modern psychedelica. Yet at times this album feels anything but a brave new venture forward. The first two tracks, the album title track ‘Multi-Love’ and ‘Like Acid Rain’ feel like outtakes from a forgotten Stevie Wonder album. These two tracks have a sunken feel, almost like they have been embedded in Nielson’s mind, and he is simply drawing the raw basics of the tracks back from the remnants of the 1970s.
The album gives us nine new tracks and maybe the current trend of labelling the band as retro psychedelic is beginning to wear thin. It is easy to group the band within the same genre as Tame Impala and The War On Drugs. Yet this feels like an album that has caressed out the rough edges of previous albums and should be celebrated for the sheer scale of production by Nielson.
There are a whole host of descriptive tags that could be pinned in order to describe this album. Yet one of its strengths is that it is simply something to immerse yourself in without having to scramble around for ill-fitting musical sub categories.
‘Can’t Keep Checking my Phone’ is the perfect example of this. A wave of feel good infectious sounds lap across your ears. If you are one of those people that demands tags, then I guess psychedelic soul-funk would just about cover it. However, the levels of production are so great that you can hear so many things happening on this record it’s untrue.
‘The World Is Crowded’ continues in a similar vein with a delicious soulful laid back groove that shows the ability to create pop songs with hooks so tempting, yet all done with seemingly minimal effort.
‘Necessary Evil’ continues to displays his talents at creating deconstructed pop which could easily be reformed and reproduced to a larger audience. It is simply an infectious and wonderful track. Yet we feel that Nielson prefers to keep the construction in this minimalist form. It's almost like he knows what makes catchy pop sounds yet prefers to maintain his appeal for more discerning lo-fi audiences.
The final track is ‘Puzzles’ which starts out as a more rocky affair with grinding guitars and pounding beats yet still there remains his soulful vocals to balance the track. It provides a grand stand finish to an amazing album.
It feels that now and again an album comes along which is able to deliver as an album. So often individual tracks are cherry picked and in an age of digital instantaneous gratification it’s so refreshing to be able to hear something that has been constructed to be a wonderful album. I strongly urge you to listen from start to finish.