Review of Backspace Unwind Album by Lamb

A duo originally from Manchester consisting of Andy Barlow and singer Lou Rhodes, Lamb's defining moment arguably came in 1996 with 'Górecki', the fourth single from their self-titled début album. Operating in a trip-hop niche not exactly renowned for its ability to emote positively, it also seemed to be a commercial breakthrough, with Rhodes' almost childlike vocals giving up feelings of tenderness and devotion that charmed those looking to escape the laddish final throes of Brit pop.  

Lamb Backspace Unwind Album

Returns, however, have diminished for the pair since that point, leading to a seven year hiatus between albums which finally ended in 2011. One of the reasons is that both Rhodes and Barlow now have active solo careers, hence also the gap between 'Backspace Unwind' and its predecessor '5', and the music business being what it is these days, they're equally comfortable to now be operating without a label.

So, confident, experienced and happy - what will the results be? The answer depends on your perspective. It's obvious that no boundaries are being pushed: 'Backspace Unwind' continues to use as its base components the dream-like textures of Rhodes' voice set against Barlow's layered programming; this juxtaposition between de-humanised technology and the fragile human ego being their most notable quality. Opening track 'In Binary' is a prime example of this at work, smudged techno beeps running alongside occasional strings, like a lullaby for The Terminator's children.

If that's relatively animated, much of the rest goes at walking pace, with varying results on the interesting scale. In the plus column are closer 'Only Our Skin' and 'As Satellites Go By', the latter a  superior (whisper it quietly) Sarah Mclachlan sound alike steeped in graceful, understated piano. The yang comes via 'What Makes Us Human', a song which spends most of its four minutes trying to find itself, whilst Rhodes' distorted vocals on 'Doves And Ravens' feel like a sop to old times as the music itself veers between trip-hop's claustrophobia and torch song melancholy.

Pristine, it's all very well executed without every really threatening to deliver much by way of thrills. Only on the snarky dubstep sub-bass of 'Seven Sails' do the duo come close to fascinating the listener, but it's a jarring of slight proportions, and a temporary one. In a space which Alison Goldfrapp colonised in one of her many incarnations, 'Backspace Rewind' finds itself a victim of its own acceptability, easy to listen to, much harder to be passionate about.  


Andy Peterson

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