When I think of a conch, I’m reminded of the classic novel, Lord of the Flies from author William Golding. The person who gets to speak, who holds the power carries the conch. Or, I think of summers at the beach, putting shells next to my ear, hearing the ocean and a series of whooshes and muffled auditory arrangements my little imagination created. Univore’s Conch – an album that unlike Golding’s crew of boys doesn’t get nastier and more evil as it moves along. Nor do the 12 songs from the Chicago-based and Portland, Oregon- band sound inaudible or inexplicably mesmerizing. They do, however, raise the imagination and powerfully fill spaces with creative and ingenuity.
In other words – they are really cool, but very weird. What else could you expect from a band that uses a vibraphone. It’s widely used amongst jazz artists, but I love the way it resonates alongside more pop-rock presentations.
As the album moves along, so do the arrangements and intricate sounds. Nicholas Flando and David Bachmann rely heavily on unique synthesizer measures and not as much on vocals. Bachmann even uses a lap steel (guitar) and the decision to do so is surprisingly honest and welcomed. It’s a bit to get used to, but once you’re locked in as a listener, it’s hard to break away from the breezy and often funky tones. They’ve got soul and pizzazz when they need it, and the cool hush when it’s necessary. When they do enlist vocals, Sagan Jacobson comes across as not only proficient, but also a charming companion to the peculiar music beds. Bryan Doherty is on bass, but he’s not an official Univore member.
“Fun in the Sun” is a pure modern pop rock song. It’s really captivating and the way the vibrations and grooves move along, it’s very hard not to come back time and again to listen just one more time to this summer staple. “Foreign Pollen” and “State of the Art” are also some of my top tracks from Conch. Perhaps it the thrill of the guitar riffs and pulsating beeps and changeups that made me want to dance and race my mind at the same time.
Univore’s canvas is painted with colors of the sea, vials of blood from the heart, circuits from instruments and ethereal emotions. These all come through in subtle ways albeit in the deliciously desert vibe “Meet Me at the Petroglyphs” or even the title track’s 80s-like attitude.
Still not convinced it’s the right album to grab? “Cheeseburger Beach” and “That Night We Drank the Volcano” are two songs that solidify the quirky beats and originality of the Windy City and Rose City outfit. Brilliance and bizarre come together in Univore’s Conch. Put it up to your ear, add it to your playlist or steal it from your friend, the oddity is there, but so is the magic. There’s an almost infinite world they have created and it’s nice to visit. Fans of Weezer and possibly even Sean Lennon (okay, they aren’t as mopey as Lennon) might dig these guys. Bravo to Univore and high marks indeed.
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