Album review: Turquoise Hands by Univore

Univore is Nicholas Flandro and David Bachmann, a media production duo focused on original music, video and the written word operating out of Los Angeles and Akron respectively.

With Lori Le Chien on backing vocals, and additional musical accompaninent from Levi Gillis and Sagan Jacobson, Univore’s most recent album, Turquoise Hands, runs just 38 minutes.

Univore are involved with short films and scores as well as their eight albums, which fall under the category of ‘art pop’ and ‘media production project’.

On this album, twelve tracks compete for your attention, giving a pleasing aural experience. Univore are unapologically poppy and mainstream, even if their approach is definitely modern and up to the moment.

Promotional image for Turquoise Handa

Track one, “Path to a Moment” has melodic vocals and jangly guitars jostling with regular drum beats and electronica: it does sound rather 80s in its construction which makes it immediately accessible and listenable. Track two, the title track, “Turquoise Hands” is percussion and sax-led, a vaguely jazzy instrumental of the late-night jam variety.

“Mister Good Vibes”, track three, is brass and vocal led, with a carnival and carefree atmosphere. If it nods slightly to ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky”, that’s no bad thing, and this is at least a cheerful song with a retro feel. “It’s All So Lovely”, track four, is more than a little OMD in feel, with strong lyrics and vocals and a sense of summer cocktails.

Track five, “Cool Breeze”, is about dreams, best lives, and freedom, but although initially fun, it has a bit too much going on with the instruments and backing vocals, meaning the lyrics get a bit lost. Track six, “No Pressure” is a definite highlight, a laid-back instrumental medication I liked a lot.

“Sex in Wartime”, track seven, is a curious title and proves to be a curious instrumental track of layered musical moments, delicate and diverting. “Wabi Sabi”, track eight, has the feel of scratchy vinyl with a touch of the blues which made it another album highlight for me.

Track nine, “New Cliche”, returns to the overlapping vocals and is a decent, if unassuming, pop number. This one made me think of 80s duo White & Torch and some of the work they produced; lively, intelligent, and toe-tapping.

Track ten, “You Are An Animal,” has the feel of a plaintive lost love song with a 60s skin. You can imagine The Searchers or The Merseybeats tackling this one in a parallel universe.

“White Glove Hotel”, track eleven, is another instrumental which explores the relationship between different styles and instruments – the sax is again prominent, with the percussion doing sterling work.

“As Seen Through Weather”, track twelve, is more poem than song, and is perhaps the most experimental track here: it is the kind of track made for the old graphic equaliser displays which moved as the music progressed.

Overall, Turquoise Hands is a decent MOR album with some artistic quirks. It falls somewhere between inoffensive accompaniment to a serious date and an exploration of mindfulness, and although not ground-breaking is artistically and musically sound. No one is likely to get up and dance to this, but for a quieter reflection, it has its moments.

Promotional picture for Univore

One of the perks of being an arts reviewer is receiving requests to review material which may otherwise have passed me by – I haven’t come across Univore before, so their work was completely new to me with no preconceptions or expectations. I do have an eclectic taste in music, so this album was a good fit to my interests.

One comment from my own preference would be that I prefer real drumming to the machines, so the almost constant regular tapping here sometimes threatened to overpower the songs.

Your mileage may vary, but for me it weakened a couple of the numbers, particularly “It’s All So Lovely” which has some interesting underpinning melodies.

Will this album make me seek out more of this artist’s work? Probably. I am particularly interested in their short film scores, as that ticks two boxes for me and my love of audio-visual work. You can explore a lot of Univore’s work via their website.

Turquoise Hands was released 2 Jun and is available on most platforms now.