“The album has a lot of warmth and musicality. There’s a particular sense of detail that I don’t think I would have had the patience to do before. This record is all about light, beauty and musicality.”
That’s British producer Lowb‘s Andy Barlow on Leap and the Net Will Appear, his first musical project without his long-time band Lamb. The album has been described as a “soundtrack to a dream” and while this isn’t an inappropriate description, there are darker elements lurking within the music here too that cannot be forgotten. Still, the album opens up with the up-tempo break beat of ‘Wheeler, Dealer, Healer’; the twinkling synths, jittering glitches and knocking baseline of which make for a welcoming introduction.
‘Lowb’ chimes in next, literally, as the sound of winding clocks, ambient piano and a flickering beat all build and drop out intermittently before settling into their own comfortable groove, providing a unique stand out track. Unfortunately, the repetitive, high hat rhythm and Kraftwerk-esque robotics of ‘Everyone’ doesn’t fare as well. Whether the constant unchanging beat is unimaginative production or hypnotic brilliance is still up for debate.
The album’s first proper human vocal performance is heard on the darkly gothic ‘Consecration’. Its rockier edge complete with religious imagery demonstrates the aforementioned darker elements at work here as does the middle eastern-influenced ‘The Shamen’s Wife’ with Barlow’s signature D&B drums, majestic symbol clashes, tablas and mysterious sitars.
It is undeniable that Barlow’s is at his best when he lightens up with the more chilled-out sound he is known for. The mix of medieval harp melodies and electronica on ‘Haven’ result in a beautiful, futuristic lullaby that sounds like it was composed in the secret garden of an ambient netherworld. ‘Looking at God in the Eye’, meanwhile, is an understated piano lead ballad. Pretty yet predictable, it sounds destined for inclusion on a generic chill-out compilation box-set. Things come to a subtle end with the cascading harps and celestial vocal of ‘Compassions’. The chorus is a reminder to “be gentle on yourself”, which these days isn’t a bad philosophy to live by. As the title suggests, this project is a leap of faith for Andy Barlow as going it alone is always a risk. While his first solo effort is far from flawless, enough works well to make this a risk worth taking.