Review–A la Post-Mode: A Lesson Unlearnt by Until the Ribbon Breaks

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Until the Ribbon Breaks, A Lesson Unlearnt

Reviewer: Rob Bockman

Label: Kobalt

The heat went out in my house this weekend—instantly dropping the temperature twenty degrees and making the whole house an icebox. I could see my breath in every room, and kept outerwear by the door to pull on as I entered, since it was colder inside than out. I’m relaying this not just for sympathy (or at least not solely), but because it made a great environment for listening to A Lesson Unlearnt, an album so chilly and teched out you can taste the freon.

The group’s CV prior to A Lesson Unlearnt (their first full-length) is suspicious initially—all remixes of hyperexposed pop—but it’s that fusion of honeydripper pop and deconstructionist tendencies that makes Until the Ribbon Breaks fascinating as an act who are just as likely to release a remix of a Billboard Top single as they are to write a hook for Run the Jewels. “Romeo,” which marries clichés to a draggy synth line, is a major misstep, but its presence is balanced out by the welcome edge of “Revolution Indifference,” where Killer Mike and El-P casually barge in like emcee Kramers, and the flawless combo of “Pressure” and “Goldfish,” whose paired evolution is the entire album in microcosm—shifting and shiftless but somehow ascending. This may not be music as statement, but is certainly music as syntax—something more focused on how the music operates than on what it has to say—although the bass-heavy “Perspective” drops a thick and worldly spine into the trio’s slinkiness, with a verse from Homeboy Sandman cutting in with perfect surety.

We’ve become rapidly acclimated to synth-soaked retrowave in the last few years, so A Lesson Unlearnt is all the more impressive in its refreshing and stripped-down simplicity. It’s the sort of thing to make you want to coin new genres—Decrepit House, Drum and Waste—and, honestly, it may be the most 20-teens record I’ve heard since the decade rolled over.

Tracks to Watch: “A Taste of Silver,” “Persia,” “Pressure,” “Goldfish”

Tracks to Avoid: “Romeo,” “Spark”

Setting: That one nervous and bleary moment where you’re trying to figure out which is the better idea—to stop drinking, or get bottle service

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