This Isn’t Home
Opening with an almost Martin Gore harmony backing vocal which then launches into synthpop deeply into the Vince Clarke wood, with several interweaving synth lines, reverse sweep into an analogue snare joining the already present “speak and spell” type analogue bass drum, the synth bass line is full of short bouncing notes and brings back extremely fond memories of Robert Marlow, some closed hi-hats and hand claps add to the rhythm track. Further alternate slow attack bass swells and melodic synth lines further enhance the song, excellently put together and punctuated superbly with a distinctive ending musical drop and acapella harmony that is keeping with the intro. A great start to the album.
At the cafe
Short, filter swept synthesiser sounds are quickly joined by one of the hook lines to this song, conjuring up Robert Marlow in the crafting of this piece by altering the timing of the melody after the first repeat and then transposing it down and layering with a contrasting sound. The bass line bounces about again in a Marlowesque style while the analogue drums form a foundation, with occasional reverb effects on beats and white noise chiffs competing along with the type of analogue random babbles that I thought could only emanate from Vince Clarkes modular! Another very good song put together with everything coming in and going out in all the right places! Chiming synthesiser patches add to sustaining lines and there is always something going on adding to the sonic interest of this song about a chance meeting with a girl at a cafe, and waiting for her return, also worthy of a mention are the excellently used hand claps throughout that remind me of Yazoo. I also couldn’t let this song go without mentioning the excellent lyrics “you picked up your coat and put your sunglasses on as if it was for fun” and “it looked as if you wanted to say something or order a drink, so I decided to stay” also contains an excellent middle eight section. again I’ve not heard anything like this since Yazoo, Vince Clarke and Robert Marlow days and with some great vocal backing mixed in.
Nothing can be saved
Nobodies dairy echoes around my head as the hand claps resonate along with the cleverly interweaved lines coming in and out and moving forward and backwards through the excellent mix of sound. By now the fantastic orchestration of sounds are competing with the clearly excellent song writing and a technique of using three contrasting parts takes over from the more usual verse/ chorus type arrangement, before the first part becomes embedded into your psyche the second part is launched which takes you into the deviating “everybody’s dreaming” that leads you into the thoroughly brilliant chorus ”don’t say that nothing can be saved” over the top of the catchy opening melody. some more drops and alternative bits are interjected along with some more chiming type sounds (I love these) whew I need to catch my breath for a second as the hooks almost overload my mind in a way that only brilliant music can and a huge smile envelopes my face. Three songs in and already hugely won over.
More of the same with “soul inside” the bouncing bass lines and lots of little lines build up a whole picture, good use a backing vocals again, and before you get your breath you launched into another catchy song and the rather thought provoking “if you could change your life would you change your soul inside, leaving memories behind, without knowing what to find”? With so much happening melodically it’s all too easy to not listen to the words as there is such a lot going on sonically, another clever middle eight with superbly combining vocal harmonies leading me to picture Martin Gore again!
Closer uses a more punctuated bass line and has more foreboding vocals and melodies and in some ways is a more typical synthpop song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Dépêche Modes second album. With a more typical drum machine and closed hi-hat pattern and a melody lines made up of metallic PPG Wave 2 sounding patches. Overall a more laid back and downbeat composition, featuring what sounds like some very clever reversing and cutting of vocal textures towards the end of this song, this is how a lot of bands would describe as their work maturing!
Song for no one
This track is a bit of a nod in the direction of Dépêche mode of a later era as the intro opens with typically DM style wails and unusual percussion sounds. More than likely synthesised but conjuring up images of people hitting strange objects (I should get out more) lots of vocal harmonies are apparent and again the style sits this one perfect for Dépêche Modes second album “A Broken Frame” and in particular “Satellite” and even more laid back than the previous album track. Sustaining synth and hard percussion are the theme for this tune!
This track futures quite a few of the tones that have set the foundations for this album with sounds that are not a million miles from the first three tracks however there use is quite different and this song although more upbeat that the last two has still more in common with those than the opening three, I understand that the album was put together from demos that were recorded over a long period of time and I would be willing to bet that the last three are later that the first three. Again more foreboding in feel and sound, but still recognisable as Univaque with clever use of very short and fast sounds as they arrive and depart before your brain has chance to register them! Another twist into the song with a contrasting middle eight again before propelling the tune into an different direction with some quite Yazoo parts as the song transforms with the lines “something out there haunts me”, my favourite part of the tune.
Sticking my neck out I would have to say that this must be one of the early songs, as we launch back into a major key melody intro, some “speak and spell” drum lines, and a luxurious backwards drum part and then full on synthesiser melodies, unashamedly early Dépêche Mode and as catchy as! Musical melodies arrive and depart at just the right time as they effortlessly do in all the best arrangements, something that I’m getting very accustomed to with Univaque, and more reversed parts! Another brilliantly catchy song and I have to mention the bit like “New Life” where a vocal ahhh is held and more are added to reach the final ahhh shout crescendo leading to the chorus and a brilliant outro repeating melody with more interweaving and altering parts overlap to synth heaven brilliance.
To live and to give
Think we have another later univaque chune here that doesn’t sound a million miles away from the vocalising of Neil Arthur and Blamange without the Indian style percussion, something about this one reminds me of the unreleased Dépêche Mode track “television set” although I cant put my finger on exactly why, and again this song contains a fantastic middle eight section, can only describe it as being a bit Dépêche and Elegant Machinery with some nice synth parts particularly a band pass filtered type bit! And filtered vocal backing as well producing a very nice overall texture towards the tracks finale!
Precious is life
Clever use of a sound that morphs into a vocal wailing, not a million miles from Dépêche land before an upbeat rhythm track drives the tune along with an excellent vocal chorus that infects your brain tune section, along with bouncy synthesiser lines that join new ones every few notes with the huge catchy chorus and a nice ending, yet again introducing new elements in keeping with the theme.
Do we feel?
Punctuated bass lines drive along the introduction with chiming almost Robert Marlow patches that use a sharp and fast vibrato as the note sustains, with handclaps and swelling sustaining lines with a distinctive chorus typical of how univaque orchestrate a song by using several individual contrasting and interleaving parts instead of the traditional way of sustaining a chord to fill a song, a technique used to huge effect by the great Vince Clarke, song construction is something which is obviously done with a lot of thought through this album and again this song has a nice shift into a breakdown which as usual feature new original elements rather that recycling the same tired parts that it can be an all too easy trap to fall into.
This type of music is very easy to try to imitate but tremendously hard to do properly, and make no mistake, these are songs not just a collection of sounds over a drum machine that a lot of other artists fall into, these guys clearly know how to do this type of music properly, there seems to be something clever happening all the while. Something repeats but before you become too accustomed to it, it’s changed but not in a random way, in a way that pulls and twists you into another direction, I’ve made a lot of assimilations to other artists in this review and I don’t mean to detract from the album at all its just that I haven’t heard sounds put together in this fashion since these other artists were in there heyday, as you can probably tell I’m rather fond of these other artists and I’m also now rather fond of Univaque, this is undoubtedly one of the best albums I’ve heard for a long time and have got much pleasure from the many times I’ve listened to it and plan to in the future. Talking of the future I’ve not seen anything else that univaque have done before or since “Lost in a Maze” but I certainly hope that this isn’t the last we hear of them.