In 2014, Manchester natives, Lamb dropped their 6th studio album Backspace Unwind, and brought back their intricate writing styles. Their unwavering approach to intellectual trip-hop marked them as groundbreaking developers of the genre. Immediately after the release, the duo decided to go on hiatus. After five years of radio silence, producer Andy Barlow and singer/songwriting Lou Rhodes reunite to create their 7th studio album The Secret of Letting Go. Their lavish folk essence is tethered with 90s drum and bass breakbeats as the narrative is a message on making amend with the past. As usual, Lamb pushes forward into the future with new sonic sounds and a clear direction into new beginning. The transformation is transparent as trip-hop innovators remind us what the 90s were about.
Lamb has the ability to produce enchanting moods in different variations. In the first song “Phosphorous,” the ethereal sensation adorns a cinematic movement that appears throughout the album. Rhodes vocal ensembles pierces through the frequency spectrum as she embellishes harmonies with the minimal touch of the keyboards. The same is said in the last song, “One Hand Clapping,” for the simplicity of the soft vocals navigates the listener to the very end. Again, the vocal ensemble is foreshadowed with backing keys and strings as the drums are purposely subtracted. From beginning to end, the album is mellifluous charm that is built by a wall of warm tones held together by the consistency of a four-part orchestral chord progression.
Lamb does not forget to bring the house down with bass breaks and big drops. What makes them a staple in the trip-Hop scene for their skill in arranging forcefully gentle drum beats, spacy high-ends melodies, and gritty sequencers. All forms of their power come alive in “Bulletproof,” as the push of the beat is wrapped around the thick bass-synth. Using different oscillators in different octaves to create an overhead melody, the energy is extended as pays its tribute to trip-hop origins. The essence of using a continuous sequencer to build on the intensity while simultaneously allowing Rhodes to set the groove back with her vigorously sparse voice.
The bite of the kick in the beginning of “Moonshine,” proved that the song would be catchy and become their hit single. As the syncopation of the drums grab one’s attention, it is hard not to be hypnotized by the modulation of the bass synth as it drops from note to note in microtones. Making its appearance as the second track, Lamb steps out of the reverberation room and takes the listener into the dancehall. Additionally, they invited Irish Reggae producer/vocalist Cian Finn to collaborate with them. Making his strong baritone vocals present, Finn sensual groove provides that the dub-house vibe that trip-hop is always asking for.
Overall, the theme of the album is clearly stated in title. The Secret of Letting Go is a composite narrative of letting go of the past- a universal truth that each individual has to deal with at some point in life. Rhodes effortlessly describes the feeling in the song, “The Secret of Letting Go.” The stammering synthesizer paves the way for the edgy vocals as the song elegantly develops into a fantasy. Rhode’s captivating chorus expresses her specific message when as she says, “the secret of letting go is forgetting to hold on.” The music illustrates the idea of detachment as the elongated strings in the chorus delineate a “push and pull” feeling. A sonic intensity is the recreates what the anxiety of acceptance can feel like.
The Secret of Letting Go is a necessary trip-hop revival. Albums like this are not only musically important, but educationally required. Lamb embodies the soul of the past and brings it back to the new generation of kids that do not understand trip-hop. Putting together a collage of different genres to reshape their originality, Lamb still remains an emblem in the underground trip-hop scene. As they share their new history, they tell us the truth about regret and forgiveness in the only way they know how.