Album Reviews

Lamb – Backspace Unwind

(Strata/Butler) UK release date: 3 November 2014

lamb-backspace-unwind Twenty years is a long time to be making music people want to listen to. It’s also a timespan that would see many artists lose their creativity and let their creative palette run dry. Fortunately, this is not the case for Lamb. With the release of their sixth album comes another platter of electronic brilliance that sounds fresh and contemporary whilst still adding their own dusting of unique, synthy magic to each track.

The album was mostly recorded at Andy Barlow’s own recording studio, named ‘The Lookout’ due to its panoramic views of the South Downs, and that feeling of space and landscapes permeates throughout the album. There is also the undeniable sense of two artists who feel at home and comfortable in themselves and how they work with one another, with an ability to experiment, both in terms of the production and in how Lou Rhodes pushes her voice and the lyrics into new territory.

From the outset, it first appears that there’s extensive use of sparse looping textures, something that has become synonymous with 2014’s electronic music, giving the sense that Lamb might simply be trying to fit into a structure that has become so popular in the present. However, the duo have done something different and taken inspiration from other things that are happening in music today, plied them open and then moulded them into something of their own creation. Opening with the intergalactic-inspired In Binary, driven by mathematical synths and pounding beats, Rhodes’ vocals float futuristically above the spacious mass of sound that creates the sense of being propelled into a party in another galaxy. It’s sophisticated and full of atmosphere, setting the protocol for the rest of the album.

Lead single We Fall In Love glitters with the same intergalactic feel, but with a more sensuous feel that explores lust through a NASA-lens. The synths twinkle and glimmer whilst the infectious beats build and quicken the pace. As Satellites Go By similarly cements the extra-terrestrial flow of Backspace Unwind, but with a fiery tenderness that is enhanced by the beautifully arranged strings that gives the whole song a glowing sensation that will give you goosebumps. It subtly paints visual images of lovers looking up at starry skies and endless landscapes: who said romance was dead?

Yet it is tracks like Nobody Else and Doves & Ravens that stand up and show how Lamb are still making relevant and interesting music. With their Portishead-esque set-ups and textures, where Rhodes’ voice creeps around the entangled enclaves of complex polyrhythms and artificial sounds, it’s seductive and enticing – clever whilst still being catchy. The heartrending love song Nobody Else is an example of the tenderness that the duo are able to demonstrate through the album, but in contrast Seven Sails stands as a statement of more dramatic experimentation that plays with dub-inspired musings and melds them into their own sound.

Closing with the lullaby-style Only Our Skin, the album is brought to a gentle ending. The subtlety and effortlessness of the vocals and the looping harmonies are hypnotic and beautiful as it rocks back and forth, rising and falling in time with the breathing as it pans around in stereo.

The masterful production of the record really brings the album into its own. It does exactly as it needs to do, creating enough atmosphere to get the message across, but without overdoing it. There is still ambition in the music, and evidently a clear vision of how they wanted this album to come across. It touches the heart, has a fire and makes you relax as Lamb transport you to a parallel universe where troubles evaporate.

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More on Lamb
Lamb – Backspace Unwind
Lamb – Between Darkness And Wonder