Review Summary: "Maybe I'm wrong" Craig B sings on this debut release. He needn't have worried.
When Scottish art rockers Aereogramme split in 2007 it was to a muted reception. The band's small army of fans were devastated of course but the band's problem had always been that it's following was just that, small. As the band themselves put it upon announcing their split they had "an almost superhuman ability to dodge the zeitgeist". While bassist Campbell McNeil and drummer Martin Scott gave up the ghost completely frontman Craig B and guitarist Iain Cook weren't ready to quit. In August 2009 they announced a new project together, The Unwinding Hours.
It's now, in February 2010, that the duo release their debut record and it sets the bar for all other releases to try and match this year. From the first bars of opener 'Knut
' it's clear that the project follows in the footsteps of Aereogramme's final release, the superb 'My Heart Has A Wish That You Would Not Go
'. For the most part it is more restrained than a typical Aereogramme release although the dark undercurrent running through the album frequently becomes apparent, no more so than on the excellent 'Child
' in which a thudding bass line suddenly transforms the song from standard atmospheric rock to something far more powerful and threatening. There hasn't been a total forgoing of heaviness however; it's truly shocking when closer 'The Final Hour
' suddenly explodes after a tranquil first couple of minutes. Overall this is an album more about the gradual building up of tension rather than sudden outbursts of aggression. For the most part, whenever a song like 'Peaceful Liquid Shell
' reaches the point where you are expecting it to descend into a deafening drum and guitar barrage it actually either winds up or continues in the same peaceful, yet occasionally slightly disturbing, vein.
However dense the atmosphere on this record though it is certainly not especially complex. Cook is a master of using dense layers of relatively simple instrumentation to complement one another and to create a staggeringly impressive whole. On top of these soundscapes come Craig's typically emotive lyrics. Whether he's imploringly crying ("Give me silence
") or creating somewhat bizarre and unnerving imagery ("Let it be known that I am well/trapped inside this peaceful liquid shell
"), Craig's lyrical content act as the icing on the cake of the finely tuned songs that make up this debut album. Will it appeal to people who have never heard of Aereogramme? It probably will, if they like artistic rock with a melancholic tone. It's certainly not going to appeal to everyone who was a fan of the pair's former band; there isn't enough heaviness or twisting and turning for some. Similar to the likes of compatriots The Twilight Sad and the USA's Junius, this is a volume of music that is not life changing but about as good as this kind of music ever gets these days.
Always sung with maximum passion and played with maximum intensity, this is an album that would, in a fair world, place The Unwinding Hours as stars in the vast alternative rock field. The fact that, in all probability, it will not, doesn't matter. Iain Cook and Craig B have found themselves another vehicle in which to display their musical talent and to them, I dare say, that is all that matters.