Let's be clear: Urgent Turquoise, the second full-length from San Fran's Tone of Arc, isn't geared toward those folks who focus with laser-like precision on music's myriad, ever-mutating microgenres. The San Fran duo of multi-instrumentalist Derrick Boyd and vocalist Zoe Presnick (partners in life as well as the studio) aren't attempting to please fans of bubblegum bass, deep filthstep, skweee, chapstep , nor any other hyperspecific music format.
Instead, the target audience for Urgent Turquoise—and, in today's fragmented sonic landscape, this runs the risk of sounding quaint—is one that simply wants to spend some time with intriguingly arranged, slightly unhinged, and ultimately pleasurable tunes, with fretting too much about style. The duo is basically aiming toward what those first hominids who discovered that banging bones on rocks in a rhythmic manner was kind of cool were probably shooting for—the never-ending quest to turn life into a richer experience. Or, as Boyd and Presnick put it in their slightly more mystical way: "Music is the auditory manifestation and colors of your soul as it bends, blends and manipulates around you through you and by you to support our spirit’s growth. To enhance life is the ultimate goal and there is no better way to do so than playing and making music."
The result is something of a sonic variety pack, with a slightly otherworldly vibe serving as the unifying factor. Lead cut "Practical Particles" opens with some bluesy guitar, with tribal percussion and an emotive, wistful melody sending us off to points unknown; "Chromatic Flight" weds a gentle groove to a playfully plucked melody, upping the funk factor in its second half via growling analog bass and chanted vocals; and the bleepy "Galavant,"with its jagged edges and ominous vocals, is both a little bit menacing and a whole lot goofy. Elsewhere, "Roxy's Young Blood" blankets its twangy guitar, eerie keys and Presnick's yearning vocals under swathes of reverb, a martial rhythm and insistent, two-note bassline supplying its propulsive force, while "Baboon Baby," with its rubbery bottom end, marimbas, spoken-word lover-man interlude and stripped-down arrangement, is an alternate-universe take on '60s AM-radio gold. Even the songs that at first seem to own the most to tradition—like "Alice in a Can," which begins as something of a '70s-era prog-rock ballad—takes enough weird twists and turns to keep things interesting.
Perhaps best of all are a pair of cuts that Boyd and Presnick have borrowed from a couple of bands that, we might assume, are among Tone of Arc's inspirations: "Chant No.1" hews fairly close to the Spandau Ballet original (which is good, because it's an sterling groove to start with), and their version of Portishead's "The Rip," which serves as Urgent Turquoise's closer, trades the plaintive Beth Gibbons vocals of the Portishead version for a majestic, sublimely heartfelt duet. It's a beautiful finish to a fine set of song—and while this album won't be for everyone, those who listen with an open mind will find much to love.