A Lesson Unlearnt

Review Of Until The Ribbon Breaks New Album 'A Lesson Unlearnt'

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Pete Lawrie Winfield, who hails from Cardiff, has a background in film and an interest in soundtracks that he has turned into an experimental mix of genres, with bandmates James Gordon and Elliot Wall. Using words that sometimes sound as though they were taken straight from a personal journal, computerized brooding sounds, and music mashed together with hip hop, Until the Ribbon Breaks starts off familiar and veers into unknown territory. Winfield first came to the public eye doing DJ sets for Lorde, and has also created a number of what he terms “re-imaginings” of other musician’s songs, hitting on everyone from Blondie to London Grammar. The debut album, A Lesson Unlearnt, features Run the Jewels as guests on one of the songs, their mood of necessary intensity making a unique contrast with the singer/songwriter feel that underpins most of the tracks. It’s clearly the direction of most of the album, which starts out a little dreamier, before taking to the streets and adding the harder edge beats. Apparently Winfield draws his inspiration from filmmakers like David Lynch, who does seem to be popping up as everyone’s favorite filmic source lately. But perhaps it explains the determined attempt at darkness. His singing speaking whispery vocals keep the picture palatable to a whole range of listeners. It’s a nod to the film noir lite as popular genre. It’s an interesting idea, a combination that sometimes works, and other times seems a bit of an afterthought. Until the Ribbon Breaks is on tour supporting London Grammar and has been featured on NPR and Harper’s Bazaar’s sounds of 2015, so expect to see more of them and some moody fashion shots featuring the camera-ready Winfield.

“Orca” tries out a hook with “Orca orca/There’s nothing quite/as black and white.” It’s introspective, electronic. Then suddenly the mood shifts on the album, and becomes a bit more blues, the vocals veering towards the Beatles meet rap music. From here on out, it’s a whispery half spoken vocal that moves through hand claps and strings. “Perspective” featuring Homeboy Sandman carries along this line. Wishful thinking, steady beat, snare and cymbal with the spoken vocal in the background. It makes for an odd combination, part vague hip hop light, cowbell, space sounds, bits of percussion, more space, and repetitive beats.

“Spark” dials it up with the big but gentle EDM sound leading to a dance floor filler, with a sort of weird alternate vocal. The beat has speeded up, bass and contained synth. “Give me a fire to start” calls out the vocal before more EDM borrowed boop boop boop comes at us. A little cocktail lounge, a little fire on the beach. Start it up, that fire. It’s catchy but strange.

“Revolution Indifference,” is the standout track. It comes complete with lock and load sound, and features Run the Jewels. The sort of reverse bent note that punctuates the end of each line could be addictive or irritating. Pop hip hop? Pop Hop? Chris Martin, you should have thought of this with Jay-Z. Or is that what’s coming next? It’s a strange mix, but not a bad one.

“When You’ve Had a Taste of Silver” tells us “then pennies won’t do, when you’re craving something more than what’s been given to you.” Perfect bluesy accompaniment to the grasping of daily life, a soulful soundtrack to justify want and greed. The video manages to co-opt both lo-fi and sci-fi, which is no mean feat. But catchy. Perfect for pushing in front of people when you get off the train.

“Pressure” definitely has that hands in the air quality, with the same sort of sincere odd vocal, which underpins the piano and the spun repeated sound of a thousand voices going “oh” through a range of otherworldly effects. The video is a dark love affair nouveau noir film much beloved of Lana fans and featuring guns and cars and blondes.

“Until the Ribbon Breaks” is deep space sounds over beats and a kind of organ keyboard drawn out sound. Vocals talking directly to us, “I don’t feel homesick anymore.” Space voices mixing in to the steady beat. Everything melts down, the ribbon breaking at the end of the verse. A metaphor for the end of the world, a tape you listen to until everything dissolves. It’s a theme that reappears on the album again and again, although his voice, while sad, doesn’t exactly sound like someone facing down the end of all things.

Not singing is the new singing. Not exactly emotion, not exactly speaking, a sort of word based lyricism, the new soulful man who is both cutting and smoothing. It is lonely room music with some of the hallmarks of EDM and hip hop added on.

Alice Severin

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