Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Multi-Love (Jagjaguwar) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #53 - April/May 2015 - Tame ImpalaUnknown Mortal Orchestra



May 22, 2015 Issue #53 - April/May 2015 - Tame Impala Bookmark and Share

Ruban Nielson returns with another anachronistic beauty, this one hitting the eardrums like a dusty Numero Group find from a home studio in the ‘70s U.S. Rust Belt, fashioned meticulously, mad-scientist style, with an army of synthesizers patched together and deployed deep in the off-hours. Their mission? To help Nielson communicate a complex message of love in 2015 A.D., for the species, for the tribes, and for each of us navigating our tech-saturated days, noses in our phones. It’s no iteration of free-love idealism but a mishmash of those same ideals as eroded by the decades that followed, philosophically (and very much sonically) in line with Sly & the Family Stone when the ‘70s began to darken the strident idealism, paranoia and cynicism creeping in around the edges.

“Puzzles” opens with sound effects of smashing windows, calling out recent events in the U.S. that make it clear that here we are still fighting the same fights, and its distorted chorus is an indictment: “I don’t want to solve your puzzle anymore.” “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty” is the album’s centerpiece, its chorus a plea that gives some hint of Multi-Love‘s deeper bent: “If we were just strangers and we would fall in love again/Abandon extreme wealth and casual cruelty.”

Other songs go more introspective, the title track exploring the day-to-day damage of relationships, rock-star style: “Checked into my heart and trashed it like a hotel room.” Or on the narcotic romance of “The World Is Crowded,” Nielson’s funk-falsetto writing ‘scrips: “Ooh the world is crowded/Did your doctor prescribe me for what ails you, dear?”

Title-pondering aside, Nielson’s pointed surrealism gets a different delivery medium this time around, following the funkier threads of previous outings to their logical ends. Those synthesizers really add something new, from foggy texture to hard-driving lead and rhythm sounds, all of them slightly quirky and otherworldly, of course (and warm, warm, warm—that flagrant disregard of like 3-20 kHz that is a substantial part of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s instant nostalgia). The drumming is pointedly funky, these tunes riding pumping tight beats with open hi-hat accents (or even going full disco with stepping baselines on “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”). Nielson’s guitar mastery is more restrained, less likely to drift off on psychedelic tangents. Spending most of the album in his R&B/funk falsetto, Nielson seems more inclined to strut than space out.

One exception is that aforementioned centerpiece tune, one of the few eschewing the falsetto (for a strangely modulated baritone in this case). It’s the six-minute slow jam du jour, and perhaps the ultimate Unknown Mortal Orchestra song with its meandering Brian

Eno-esque rhythm synths, crushingly wistful vocal melodies, and—yes—an absolutely perfect saxophone solo propelling it into the stratosphere. It’s a testament to Nielson’s poetic soul as much as it is to his newfound concentration on his arrangements. His ambition feels contagious. (www.unknownmortalorchestra.com)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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