Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s music is like a game of hide-and-seek, revealing one thing only to bury another. Blink and you’ll miss the guitar in the beginning of Multi-Love’s “The World Is Crowded” because a burst of synths comes in and saturate the track to a pure white hum. If you don’t catch the anxieties and heartbreaks of polyamorous love, it’s because Ruban Nielson has compressed and phased his voice down to a thin analog texture. Falling for UMO is as easy as taking time to look for what Nielson conceals in his songs. It can be a vintage Crumar synth tangled in the mix, or him pondering if someone would listen to his “silly voice” on the last day of their life; a loose hi-hat on the off-beat subtly driving the verse into the chorus, or him thinking his wife’s love for him is her “fatal flaw.”
For as tuned-in and specific as it is, Multi-Love is multivalent. Next to some baroque ’60s beat music there’s a Zappa homage, propped up against a dance track you could find on a Giorgio Moroder record, followed by some pigeon-toed funk that you should probably do a bunch of drugs to. It’s a wunderkammer inside, cramped with hundreds of tiny gestures, musical and lyrical. Recall, this is a guy who’s obsessed with taking huge pop ideas, like “How Can You Luv Me” off his debut album, and turning them completely inward. That song could be a Bruno Mars No. 1 hit in the hands of a major label producer. But Nielson is a fussy gear-head who loves psychedelia, shredding on his guitar without a pick, and, well, making music to do a bunch of drugs to. All the pop songs are buried deep in the mossy soul of Multi-Love.