The duo Lamb has always been esteemed for their experimental work created with a distinctive style and passionate lyrical delivery. Over their now 23 years long career, there have been a number of ups and downs including a hiatus for five years from 2004 to 2009, but through it, all Andy Barlow and Lou Rhodes have released singularly arresting music. On April 26 the pair released their seventh studio release, “The Secret of Letting Go”. The album follows up their 2014 release “Backspace Unwind” and their various solo ventures. These include Rhodes’ 4th solo album and Barlow producing among others Damien Rice, David Gray and U2. On the new release, the duo was inspired by the idea of the space between the sounds and as a result, have produced a contemplative yet sundrenched recording.
Lamb was founded in 1996 in Manchester, UK but always seemed to have more in common with the Bristol-based Trip Hop movement that produced bands like Portishead and Massive Attack. The duo is made up of Andy Barlow as producer/multi-instrumentalist and Lou Rhodes as singer and songwriter. After the release of Lamb’s eponymous debut, they became a hit phenomenon in the UK. That popularity for some reason did not translate itself into international fame. In hindsight, it becomes apparent that they were sonic prophets of sounds and techniques that are now commonplace on the charts. Their compositions which were once thought esoteric are now deemed approachable as the recording world has caught up to their creative originality.
“The Secret of Letting Go” was written and recorded in England, India and Ibiza over the space of a year and each location left their imprint on the release. The crystalline opening track “Phosphorus” contains a sparse piano arrangement that seems to endlessly expand as Rhodes lets loose an incantation of sorts. The track is a call to order as the album launches. The selection acts like a match strike making the darkness illuminated. On the next track, “Moonshine” the pair recruited Irish Rapper Cian Finn to help provide a more tribal punchy feel. Added to this aural motif is the ever-present wonky, pulled around production Lamb is renowned for presenting. In this song alone you can witness how far before their time the duo was and how what was once though unusual has been embraced by many current popular artists. Both these opening tracks act as an amuse bouche for the tracks that follow.
“Armageddon Waits” displays what Lamb has always done brilliantly, combining the atmospheric with the thought-provoking. This brooding sinister track is epic and panoramic and the serious throbbing bass is not to be missed. “Bulletproof” reflects classic Bristol Trip Hop sounds with a song that is loaded with skittery beats and funky synths. This ode to inner strength and resilience displays the duo’s original uniqueness that has thankfully become more approachable as the music charts have evolved. The title track, “The Secret of Letting Go” originated from a period of time where the duo considered packing in their joint effort. The track is filled with disembodied, eerie, layered vocals and esoteric synths. The magic of the selection is in the use of the space between the notes to emphasize the message, “the secret of letting go is forgetting to hold on.” This song is an erstwhile review of Lamb’s musical career revealing both the highs and the lows.
Tracks like “Imperial Measures” and the otherworldly “The Other Shore” show off Lou’s gorgeous voice and bare testament to her trailblazing for the leading ladies of bands like Florence and the Machine and Beach House. The “deep track” must listen of the album is “Deep Delirium” which is again classic Lamb. The offering serves up the alchemy that is so unique to the pair, as it mixes an undulating beat with jazz and electronica producing a wild-eyed spinning dervish of a piece. The final track “One Hand Clapping” is a celestial track that is both gripping and a gentle lullaby bidding farewell to this impressive release.
“The Secret of Letting Go” bares witness to the music charts finally catching up to Lamb’s original, unique, and experimental music-making abilities. Those who are familiar with the band will find it reassuring that the duo continues to exceed expectations and those unfamiliar will find a now approachable sonic that has become familiar to the popular music ear. As always Lamb provides a panoramic, evocative experience filled with moments of abandon and ecstasy. “The Secret of Letting Go” effectively becomes the gateway for a new generation of listeners to discover this unappreciated duo.