When writing about boy group UNVS’s debut, I was struck by how vocal-heavy it was. In a K-pop landscape that favors concept, beat and choreo, it was refreshing to hear a song that emphasized vocal arrangement. Unfortunately, their follow-ups didn’t quite live up to this potential. But, the fourth time’s the charm with new single Sand Castle. Released just as we’re entering the fall season, the track offers one last blast of summer to get us through the transition.
Sand Castle is largely a straightforward dance track, elevated by its performance. It doesn’t attempt to break the mold, and succumbs to many of K-pop’s modern structural tropes. This includes a lurching second verse tempo shift, though the one here actually works because it’s built upon dramatic vocals rather than shifting percussion.
Speaking of vocals, there are plenty of effects and filters going on here. Probably too many, to be honest. But, I appreciate how the guys’ voices are almost exclusively the focus of Sand Castle. Yes, the sprightly production whizzes by in the background, but UNVS themselves are placed front and center. Their performance is arranged as a wave, layered together to create one single texture. The individual members don’t really stand out, but I think that’s intentional. As Sand Castle goes on, the melody becomes more impassioned and the voices blend like a watercolor. It’s an interesting, otherworldly approach, and one that turns this typical dance track into something more idiosyncratic. I don’t know that UNVS have yet found their knockout hit, but this points in a promising direction.