Unfinished Drawings - To The Lovers We Left Behind
Owain Paciuszko 31/07/2009
Two piece acoustic, electronic act from Leeds release their second LP, following on from an impressive EP release earlier in the year.
Opening with the elegant piano and processed beats of Currents, which floats along serenely before introducing its vocals, contrasting male and female vocals beautifully. It's a sanguine and subtle beginning to this LP, that builds into a skin-tingling finale of guitars, drums and hopeful vocals. Second track Road Warrior favours their electronic sampled side over the mellower strains of the album's intro, and stumbles into rather dreary sounding dance territory as a result. Tucked away in the track are nice vocal arrangments and little instrumental flourishes; for instance on the right channel there's a really nice staccato electronic sounding guitar line, but it's buried under a wealth of beats and judders.
Dreaming is a laidback track that - as did their earlier EP - wanders into similar territory to Newton Faulkner and, as with him, it's a slippery slope between pop pleasantry and processed plainness. As with previous efforts there's a richness of sound and invention going on for, what is essentially, a two-piece, and when they can wrangle their electronic and acoustic leanings into something cohesive it works well; Starlight is an example of their wobbly ideas flitting between suitably atmospheric verses, supporting Toby Burras' lead vocals well against electric guitars and skittering beats, but come the chorus it does a 180 in plodding dancefloor bass and rather beige lyrics acting as a euphemism for their musical direction; 'I don't know where to go and I don't know what to do.'
For a band capable of multi-layered and richly orchestrated production its the moments when they hold back that work best, when they deliver something that can reach the emotions be it via simple instrumentation or well pitched vocals and lyrics. Unfortunately this record amble further away from its superb opening with every consecutive track; Something That Works, for example, doesn't. For One Moment on the other hand really gets the balance right, with its frenetic beats working brilliantly against Tom Perrou's guitar.
The lengthy Mistakes, Not Amends drifts from flacid balladry into something resembling a glitch remix of Vangelis's score for Blade Runner. In its earlier moments the song flirts with the kind of sentimentality that marked a lot of Michael Jackson's latter output, but the more experimental end of the track is pleasingly scattershot and returns to the optimistic roots of the album's start. Final track Ten Years On has similar Man in the Mirror anthemic aspirations, washing up on the shore alongside an East 17 effort for Christmas number one, and it's as muddled and underwhelming as one might expect and - despite some inventive backing vocals - is a damp finish to this generally rickety record.
Unfinished Drawings, as they proved on their earlier EP and sporadically across this record, really have a knack for delivering something that marries acoustic and electronic into something truly worthwhile and inventive, but too often on this LP they're hampered by their ideas rather than aided. Perhaps it's a case of being drowned in ambition? But when the band restrain themselves they shine.