I was on the bandwagon for Until The Ribbon Breaks from the start, from the very second I first heard "Pressure" in 2013. At the time, the project was only one man, Pete Lawrie Winfield. I came across "Pressure" while reading the website of producer extraordinaire Rollo Armstrong, Dido's brother and one of the founders of electronic/dance legends Faithless. He posted about current projects he was working on and one of them was Until The Ribbon Breaks.
I knew these two had some history as Rollo produced an album for Pete called A Little Brighter in 2011, released under the name Pete Lawrie. That album saw Lawrie in folk-pop, singer/songwriter mode with a sound that did little to distinguish him from the many others making similar music. I wasn't sure what to expect from this new incarnation, then I clicked on the music video for "Pressure", Until The Ribbon Breaks' first single, and my jaw hit the floor.
In September 2013, the first Until The Ribbon Breaks EP, A Taste Of Silver, was released containing "Pressure" and four other tracks. Then in March of 2014, a second EP called The Other Ones followed with four more new tracks. At the time, I said in my review you could have a potential Album of the Year if you combined the two EP's, the material was that strong. But a full length was on the horizon, initially thought to be coming in August 2013, but finally seeing the light of day at the start of 2015.
Until The Ribbon Breaks had now grown into a three piece band with the additions of James Gordon and Elliot Wall. Their debut album A Lesson Unlearnt contains seven of the nine tracks that were on the two EP's. Only the excellent "2025" and ballad "Back To The Stars" did not make the cut. Three new songs plus an intro round out the album and as I predicted, all combined they made an early front runner for my favorite album of 2015, a title it would not relinquish all year. What I have admired about Until The Ribbon Breaks from the start is the versatility in the music and the refusal to be pigeonholed in a particular musical style. On A Lesson Unlearnt, you get bits of funk, soul, electronic, hip-hop, infectious dance tracks and gorgeous ballads.
All the songs I raved about in my reviews of the EP's are here, all of them co-produced by Rollo. The aforementioned "Pressure" is a monster, moving from hard beats and a sinister feel to a lovely, piano led chorus, a stunning production. "Romeo" and "Goldfish" are soulful ballads, gorgeously melodic with sweeping strings and piano lines. "Perspective" featuring a rap by Homeboy Sandman brings the funk and there's even a song called "Until The Ribbon Breaks", a somber electronic ballad that literally breaks apart in the middle before building back with the help of a choir and electronic strings. Tremendous.
Of the new tracks, both "Orca" and "Persia" fall under the electronic R&B ballad umbrella, again the melodies are entrancing, as are Lawrie Winfield's vocals. "Orca" in particular, a reflection on death and its finality, hit me harder than any song released in 2015. It is beautiful in lyric, melody and heartbreak, another stunning achievement that especially resonates with anyone who lost someone they were close to. "Revolution Indifference" features one of the hottest duos in hip-hop right now, Run The Jewels, as it damns a generation with its head seemingly in the sand to the madness going on in the world around it. Rollo was not involved with these three tracks but they all share that unique UTRB sound and blend seamlessly with the rest of the album.
Not only did I appreciate the diversity in sounds and styles on A Lesson Unlearnt, the sequencing of the songs flows perfectly as well. Slower ballads are followed by funk before slowing down again, only to jump into a hip-hop laced song or an electronic dance number. The ebbs and flows are timed beautifully and it all adds up to the finest album I heard in 2015.
Favorite tracks: "Orca", "Pressure", "Goldfish", "Romeo"
A Lesson Unlearnt was released January 20th, 2015 via Kobalt Label Services.