Andy Barlow and Lou Rhodes have made little secret of how completing their seventh album nearly roasted Lamb alive.

Lamb

Quite apart from the regular stresses of their complex working relationship, Barlow brought with him habits adopted while working on U2’s overdue 2017 collection, Songs Of Experience, something which would dull anyone’s edge. It’s impressive, then, to report that there’s little sign of any rancour here.

It’s Rhodes who opens the album, her solitary voice on Phosphorus swiftly bathed in iridescent synths as she asks “Can a whisper still be heard?” It can, and her sensitivity demands attention, as it does, too, on the regal Imperial Measures, in which, accompanied by a muted piano, she’s slowly immersed by strings as tremulous as her breathy, tender delivery.

Furthermore, the duo ensure we’re left afterwards with this impression of serenity by concluding with the soft caress of The Silence In Between, a mournful, inviting, violin-drenched elegy which will appeal to anyone drawn towards the so-called New Classical movement, and One Hand Clapping, whose echoing elegance is barely disturbed by its quietly percussive tapping and distorted keyboard line.

Nonetheless, there are contrasting, upbeat stretches to be found, not least Moonshine, Rhodes’ voice sparkling and soaring against a rattling rhythm and Tricky-like interjections from dreadlocked Irish reggae artist Cian Finn. Armageddon Waits recalls their trip-hop contemporaries even more powerfully, with hints of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine darkness and Rhodes at her most Beth Gibbons, augmented by an arrangement redolent of John Barry’s Bond work.

Bulletproof’s woozy electro-splashes and slippery bassline, alongside Illumina’s pliable, textured drum‘n’bass offer further late 90s throwbacks, but it’s Cinematic Orchestra who are evoked by Deep Delirium’s eddying fiddles and brass, and that’s a sophistication for which it’s always worth fighting.

7/10

Wyndham Wallace

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