On a frigid winter night, with the entire Washington D.C. metro area under a “Blizzard Watch,” Cardiff-based Until the Ribbon Breaks (UTRB) brought some much-needed heat to the Nation’s capital. As the famed 9:30 Club gradually filled with fans, an anticipatory excitement hung in the air for a show that had been sold-out for months, in no small part because the amazing London Grammar was headlining the evening.
UTRB does not disappoint, either. With booming bass and a flurry of hip hop samples, they hit the stage, opening with the rhythmic flex of “Perspective,” a break-out hit from their 2015 full-length release A Lesson Unlearnt.
The band — a three piece with TWO drummers — seems to be having a blast executing their moody, highly intricate, and cinematic music. The name of their game is rhythmic wallop, in many ways not unlike the excellent and innovative band Yeasayer. Think “riding a dinosaur.” The beat takes the deep, mellow and sometimes sexy mood for a ride that makes your feet tap and your booty shake. UTRB’s musicianship and seamless multi-instrumental skills are exciting and fun to watch; the audience is swept up in the energy, shaking and dancing.
All Photos | Katherine Gaines
Two of the band’s multi-instrumentalists — James Gordon (keys, percussion, programming, backing vocals, bass) and Elliot Wall (drums, programming, backing vocals) — play both electronic and traditional drum kits during many of the songs, shifting configurations like funk cyborgs as they alternate between percussion, keyboards, samples, drums, and the addition of otherworldly synth ambiance. Frontman Peter Lawrie Winfield (lead vox, keys, programming, percussion, brass and guitar) performs on an electronic percussion pad controller, an electric guitar, and a trumpet. His voice croons, soothes, and preaches, often through the shimmery curtain of electronic effects, the embodiment of digital soul.
Behind the band, a screen projects a non-stop surge of psychedelic video, including erupting volcanoes, Anna Paquin, and their animated logo: an unraveling human head made from ribbon.
Standout tunes include: “Pressure,” a fable of unrequited love, with its searching, yearning chorus and huge electronic percussion break; the bluesy steel slide of “A Taste of Silver,” evoking Beck’s “E-Pro” with John Lennon-like processed vocals; the submarine sounds of “Orca” with its high bass line, fast drumming and mournful bridge section. As usual, the audio quality and mix in the 9:30 Club is perfect: crisp, clear, punchy and powerful: something for which the club deserves every accolade.
Pleasantly surprising: how startlingly engaging their live performances are compared to their studio recordings. Of course, that’s fairly typical of most musical artists, but it is almost a shock how much more dynamic and engaging their songs are live, the excitement and energy is just just way more rockin’. The album stands tall on its own, but if there was a way to bottle their more fiery and raw live vibe and inject it back into the recorded production, it would hit an entirely different level.
But until that magic happens, run, don’t walk, to catch Until the Ribbon Breaks live on tour.
All Photos | Katherine Gaines
9:30 Club, November 9, 2014, Washington, D.C.