The Unwinding Hours - The Unwinding Hours
Chris Tapley 10/02/2010
On their myspace profile The Unwinding Hours modestly point out that it may or may not be of interest to you that they used to play in a band called Aereogramme. For most that will probably be of significant interest, because shortly before their demise in 2007 Aereogramme released arguably one of the most divisive albums in recent memory. My Heart Has A Wish That You Would Not Go split fans right down the middle, many lauded it as the band's finest piece of work whereas many others derided it's lighter polished sound and often cheesy sentimental lyrics, claiming it lacked the nuance which enriched their previous work. As is often the case though the truth lies somewhere in the grey area between those two opposing opinions. It certainly wasn't quite as heavy as their earlier releases but the ferocity was still there, only it was applied with a more eloquent restraint. Equally whilst songs were occasionally marred by overly sentimental lyrics they were more often enhanced by lyrics which displayed a sincerity unencumbered by needlessly complex analogy or metaphor, and in the process struck upon a glorious resonance.
So with such polarity of feelings towards their last record it's not a surprise that Ian Cook and Craig B have followed the next logical step in that evolution with their debut album as The Unwinding Hours. The album opens with Knut, which is probably the strongest track and as stellar as openers come really; building patiently from subtle beginnings of muted guitar which gradually ripple outwards until they engulf the song in swathes of feedback. The noise circulates around the repeated refrain of “If we can, we will, we must get out”, which sounds gloriously defiant when set against the backdrop of thunderous noise. The following few tracks more than live up to the standard set by the opener, combining melodic guitar riffs with opulent strings and creeping builds to noisy climaxes, again with the lyrics providing a large part of the appeal, on Tightrope lyrics like“I'm too tired to think” flit around the palpitating drums and reeling guitars, and again whilst they may not be complex they are engrossing.
These opening three tracks stand up amongst the best of Aereogramme's work. Following this though the album takes a noticeable downward turn in volume and some of the concerns mentioned above become worryingly applicable. There Are Worse Things Than Being Alone is delicate acoustic track with slightly too lush string arrangements making it a little bit sickly sweet, the fact that the band have tried to counteract this displays an admirable level of self awareness but the segue in to walls of hissing drone static feels a little forced. Whilst this track itself teeters on the precipice of cringe worthy balladry, what follows it occasionally dives head first over the edge. Tracks like Solstice are littered with phrases such as “when morning comes, we'll make love”, and push the barriers of what a grown man can comfortably listen to in the presence of others. Thankfully after these slightly underwhelming few tracks here it recovers well and displays a little more nuance both musically and lyrically. The later tracks are much more dense and often engender a feeling of claustrophobia, this is most evident on the likes of Child where you can feel each hit of the drum reverberate through the whole track. Annie Jane is the band at their tender and repressive best, with cavernous production and majestic piano ringing through the ether. Closer The Final Hour builds exquisitely with it's stabs of murky guitar backing the soaring vocals entwined with frantic drumming as it strives powerfully towards it's zenith, fading away just before it erupts. This track is symptomatic of the restraint which the duo have garnered in their work with age, and this implied climax is just as effective as the one that would have inevitably existed in the earlier days.
Whilst it seems unlikely that this record will garner it's creators the plaudits that so frustratingly eluded them in their previous guise, it does prove that they undoubtedly still have the ability to obtain it. Any of these concerns voiced here are relatively minor to the record as a whole, and particularly given the weight of expectation placed upon this return by Aereogramme fans, this is a solid album that more than stands up in comparison with their back catalogue.