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Lamb (Manchester): Backspace Unwind *

Album Notes

Backspace Unwind is the sixth LP from electronica duo Lamb. Having already established themselves as an innovative group that combines elements of trip-hop, drum'n'bass, and jazz, Backspace Unwind is another prime example of the duo's unwavering flirtation with different genres within the same mold. Album-opener "In Binary" wanders and hangs while still jutting out like a sharpened pencil. It's a strong opening track, composed of wavering, static notes with Lou Rhodes' vocals creeping in majestically, echoing with swimming reverb, moving into beat-oriented territory and overtly pronounced hi-hats, and occasionally moving away to more world music-oriented percussion. Rhodes' vocals do something interesting: her delivery is soft and gentle, seemingly effortless, but can become mighty; their presence is unmistakably felt among the rest of the mix. Lyrically, "In Binary" sets the tone for the rest of the album, having been written with free association, entirely made up of images and thoughts that came to Rhodes who, almost in a state of meditation, built the track visually. Her lyrics evoke beautiful images of what it is that makes us emotional beings -- what makes us human -- as one of the track titles intriguingly suggests. This is something that's especially evident throughout the album. While being recognizably dance-oriented, it also does what Lamb does best: evokes powerful emotion with both words and sounds while injecting them with an unmistakable groove. Lead single "We Fall in Love" is composed of a lucid, warm glockenspiel melody, pulsating synth bass, and heavily pronounced dub-style percussion. Rhodes' vocals again become the enveloping force for Andy Barlow's crystalline production. His knack for having the percussion occasionally misbehave -- to stutter at the end of some bars and give way to more celestial string arrangements that swim over the top of the song -- is majestic and extremely inviting. Each track is similar to and different from the rest; an unmistakable part of the over-arching theme, but also a standalone pillar supporting the rest of the album. However, the record is not without some odd moments. Songs such as "As Satellites Go By" come across as two separate ideas intended to mesh; instead, it sounds like two distinct ideas that manage to co-exist instead of completely entwine. The rest of the album definitely overcomes this, and there are some real gems, like "Nobody Else," a midtempo, Bond-esque number with beautiful, warm strings courtesy of sting arrangements from collaborator Tom Trapp alongside thudding electronic beats, which lead nicely into "Seven Sails," a wonderfully bass-heavy track. Backspace Unwind isn't a game-changer, but it is a powerful addition to the duo's back catalog, incorporating many of the band's familiar electronic tricks in an entirely new way. Rhodes' vocals swim and entrance and Barlow's production once again transcends different plains of sound and texture. More concerned with atmosphere than structure, Backspace Unwind is a beautiful chapter in Lamb's auditory repertoire. ~ Rob Wacey



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