Three years after the release of their critically acclaimed fifth album ‘Five’, Lamb return with a brand new album ‘Backspace Unwind’ and European tour, on the 2nd of December they will be in Prague!
In any relationship, difference is the dynamic that makes magic happen. In musical partnerships, it’s often the crucial friction that makes creative sparks fly but, a fraction too much friction, and everything’s likely to go up in smoke.
Lou Rhodes and Andy Barlow understand difference more than most. They’re the first to admit that when they got together their diametrically opposing aesthetics – Lou’s devotion to The Song, Andy’s obsession with all things beats-driven and electronic and his complete disinterest in vocals – created problems. Often, the very glue that bound them together nearly saw them come unstuck. But those differences also bred a mutual respect and resulted in one of the most genuinely genre-bending dance albums of the mid-90s. In 1996, when drum’n’bass ruled, Lamb’s eponymous debut LP up-ended the rigid idea of that form by warming its distinctively chilly, tacheometric chatter with injections of jazz, classical, blues, techno and hip hop and giving it an intensely personal, highly emotional charge. The sweetly stuttering ‘Cottonwool’ and divine ‘Gorecki’ singles showed that drum’n’bass could do much more than just make feet move quicker – it could make hearts beat faster, too. The album Fear Of Fours followed in 1999, the title a sly reference to its avoidance of pedestrian beats and conventional time signatures. It was a texturally dense and often darkly intense record, a complex layering of massive, baffled breakbeats, juddering, technoid pulses, sweeping strings and disturbing electronic ambience, offset by Lou’s haunting vocals. Its striking sense of otherness peaked in ‘Alien’, for which Andy sampled the foetal heartbeat of Lou’s first son, who she carried throughout the writing and recording of the album. In 2001 What Sound was released, and effortlessly made a mockery of the supposed ‘difficult third album’ syndrome. It’s Andy and Lou at their most relaxed yet vitally re-energised, an open, easeful and self-contained, freshly charged expression of all that is characteristically Lamb, but with some surprising new voices. For the first time ever, the pair decided against doing everything themselves in the studio and employed not only a co-producer (Guy Sigsworth on 2 songs), but also invited in a host of guests for various sessions, including guitarist Jimi Goodwin of Doves, Michael Franti, Me’ Shell NdegéOcello, Scratch Perverts, Will Malone and Arto Lindsay. Letting go of the reins a little wasn’t planned, but it turned out to be a stroke of accidental genius.
“With What Sound, we noticed the simplicity and the less-is-more aesthetic that seemed to be coming out as we went along,” Lou explains. “It was obviously happening naturally, but we decided we wanted to make that a central thing with the record. It was about us as individuals and egos getting out of the way, letting the music do its thing and not trying too hard. 4th album Between Darkness and Wonder followed in 2003. It was the sound of Lamb exploring a wild dark spark and through all the painful soul-searching a kind of peace and solidarity emerged. Gone was the tussle between delicate, tremulous vocals and contrary electronics. Whereas once Andy impatiently chased the bass determined to get Lou out of her head and onto the dance-floor, now he helped her articulate a swirling mass of emotions. The production revelled in the warmth and detail of the songs and was lush with harmonies and angelic orchestrations. Genius samples lent it a timeless, dreamy quality. But this was not easy listening – it was what music’s all about – it gets under your skin, takes hold and lingers long after the last track has faded.In 2004 the band took a long-term break to concentrate on solo projects. During this time Lou released 3 solo albums, including the Mercury Music Prize shortlisted ‘Beloved One’. All 3 albums Beloved One, Bloom and One Good Thing showed a stripped-down, uncomplicated, emotive & acoustic side of Lou. She toured the world solo (and sometimes with a band) in support of all the albums.After a fair bit of globetrotting—“regaining a few lost years” after the nonstop commitments stemming from Lamb’s major label tenure— Andy spent time remixing and collaborating with other artists and honing his skills as a producer. He also completed his first full-length solo album Leap And The Net Will Appear under the name LOWB.
In 2009, after a 5-year break, Andy & Lou reformed Lamb to play a handful of summer festival dates. To say the reunion was a success would be a gross understatement. By January of 2010, the band had played 33 shows to hundreds of thousands of fans in 29 different countries. It felt good to be playing together again and the creative spark was once-again ignited. They decided it felt right to record another album and immediately started to write and record 5, their fifth album, released in 2011.
What used to be a process of building up and peeling off layers of sound and texture became a focused, less is more approach. Andy was no longer, as Lou puts it, “a kid in a sweet shop,” but a veteran producer and engineer. Furthermore, most of the studio’s digital gear had been replaced with a host of warm, tube-driven analog hardware, with each signal hitting three or four valves before it goes anywhere near a computer.
“Lamb has always been about the interplay between the rugged ‘real’ thing and the technology around it,” says Andy.After a year of touring with Lamb, 2013 saw Andy return to the studio to produce and write with other artists. During this time he produced the forthcoming album by David Gray and the debut album by new band The Ramona Flowers. Both are set for release later this year.
Meanwhile 2013 saw Lou write and record a 4th solo album, publish her first children’s book ‘The Phlunk’ and write the follow-up ‘The Phlunk’s Worldwide Symphony’, due for publication in June 2014. As Lamb they returned to the studio early this year and are currently putting the finishing touches to their sixth album Backspace Unwind. Exciting times are ahead!
Support: The Ramona Flowers (UK)
20:00 doors open
21:30 The Ramona Flowers