I love student run college radio. During my junior year of high school my radio scanner happened upon the University of California Riverside’s frequency. I stumbled upon Soulful Sundays, a full day of neo-soul programming and on Thursday nights I stayed up way past my bedtime, lied in bed and listened to a young college student play the latest underground hip hop and dancehall. I discovered Mr. Vegas and Sean Paul and immersed myself in the genius of J Dilla. The more things change, the more things stay the same. Fast forward fourteen years later…I still love college radio and stay up later than I should. But in those wee hours of the night, more often than not, the DJ plays a series of songs that is nothing less than euphonic. Perhaps I am being melodramatic, meh.

One of those songs happened to be Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Upon first listen, I fell under the spell of the mystical arrangement of instruments. The haunting ghostly ephemeral lyrics accompanied by crisp hard high hats…I was wrapped up in the raspy reverb and vocals in each verse and rocked by to the thuds and claps in the chorus. Soul and funk stylings dirty danced with garage rock and made a baby called Multi-Love. I came to find out the lead track is about a polyamorous relationship – hell the entire album is about the experiences the lead singer has in a polyamorous relationship. Who knew polyamory could be so spellbinding. (Side note, the breakdown of this song and the reason for the high hat can be found here).

Album Artwork for Multi-Love
Album Artwork for Multi-Love

In many ways, I felt like I listened to an album conceived in the late 60’s or 70’s, hell it sounds like I should have listened to this on an 8 track.

I squealed with glee when I realized that I had an opportunity to see them during an impromptu trip to Seattle, Washington. For most of the show, the lead singer focused intently on his guitar. He toggled between various notes and chords during each song. Three quarters into the show he achieved the ultimate connection with the crowd. He eased to the front of the stage, grasped hands and shared grins and lyrics with fans. He howled “Stage or Screen” to the high heavens, grasped the hand of one young fan as everyone swarmed to get closer to him. To take a picture of this unexpected  moment or to scream and shout the lyrics right back at him.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra Performing Stage or Screen
The other members of UMO were equally impressive and displayed their talents with solos throughout the set. Quincy McCrary, dipped into classical charm and up and out into the opening notes of FFunny friends.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra Footwork
Ruben channelled the late James Brown with some quick footwork, hops and drops across the stage. With one knee to the ground and more fanciful footwork, he channeled the earthy, gritty funky undertones of Multi-love.
Long story short, do yourself a favor – support local college radio, listen to Unknown Mortal Orchestra and visit Seattle, all of them are lovely.

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