The ex-Lamb star continues her foray into folk, with startling results...
Gemma Padley 2007
When Lou Rhodes made the seemingly unexpected turn from the experimental electronic music of Lamb to folk, it could have all gone horribly wrong. But, she got away with it – her debut solo album Beloved One was nominated for the Mercury last year, turning Rhodes into one of Britain’s vital folk musicians overnight.
Her transition to folk however didn’t mean she forgot what made Lamb special. Carrying forward the same sensibilities and visions of the downtempo duo, Rhodes quickly made the contrasty vocals and unexpected musical twists and turns an integral part of her solo work. Second album Bloom is a continuation of what she began with Beloved One – it is a collection of tracks which, set free from the constrictions of electronic production, possess a startling power in their often unsettling honesty.
Opening track "The Rain" embraces musical metaphors from the moment tinkling guitars simulate raindrops and crashing instrumentals imitate thunder. An obvious single, while emotive and passionate, it is a far cry from the rawness of emotion we experience in "Never Loved A Man (Like You)". Here is Rhodes at her exposed best, simultaneously sensual and seductive (one listen to her voice is enough to make anyone weak at the knees), but also stifling a suppressed pain.
"They Say" possesses a similar feel – lyrically Rhodes’ inner turmoil is acute – ‘if love is a prison’ she ponders as darker chords threaten the precarious stability. Her voice becomes choked and grittier, frightening even, a sharp contrast from the delicacies and contentedness of tracks such as "Icarus".
Whatever happens, we are always brought back round to love whether it is of the painful or joyous ilk. There is frequently hope amid the despair; in "All We Are", undoubtedly the standout track of the album, there is a pervading preoccupation with humans struggling together, sharing the same troubles and strife. The track explores what it means to commit fully to someone – the risks but also the unparalleled rewards of falling in love. Culminating in a cathartic instrumental led by rousing trumpets, it is quite simply breathtaking.
Every human surely knows how drastically close pain and pleasure are; none more so than Rhodes who invites the public to share in the emotions we all endure and relish at some point in life. It’s as simple as that.