The debut album by Collette and Hannah Thurlow – collectively 2:54 – is dominated by tone and atmosphere. Theirs is a smoky, dark gothic world of restrained but insistent melodies. Nothing ever explodes or launches off – but that seems to be the point. The 10 tracks on this eponymous record it becomes clear that this is an entrancing album, one that seeks to beckon you in and not let you go.
At times this template makes the record a captivating and thrilling listen. Doomy but sultry, its claustrophobic and immersive feel helps to create its own shadowy landscape. This is the dark of the night and they've invited you in. The guitars flicker and throb, drums pound and thud rhythmically, the hushed vocals sound evocative. Slowburning is certainly the name of the game.
It works best on tracks like 'A Salute' with its chiming guitars and breathy vocals, where the brightness shines through the dark. Elsewhere 'You're Early's 'ah ah ohs' and hypnotic bassline creates stark, austere images and is a standout. And it’s not the only one. 'Easy Undercover' swaggers in with jagged guitars and an ominously sultry voice and by the time of 'Sugar’s pounding glory you’re becoming absorbed into their world.
It’s a lesson in taut, atmospheric restraint. They’re a band that realise how important it is to have an album that flows, that plays to its strengths. Indeed, there’s very little they do wrong and the bone-dry production of Rob Ellis and Alan Moulder works well in creating this dark and brooding atmosphere.
The problem is sometimes you just want them to let go. So, when it doesn't work it can sound somewhat plodding. 'Scarlet' is searching for a hook but ends up sounding like a below par Garbage album track. Songs build up and then it feels like they have nowhere to go, the pent up tension and coiled menace created so expertly ends up in monotonous continuation rather than a huge blow out. Some just peter out, like they've come to the end of a sonic cul-de-sac and have nowhere to go.
This is the problem. They’re a band with a lot of potential and half of this album realises it. For the other half you want them to come out of their comfort zone. Their control is commendable – you just wish next time they’d let go a little bit more. But you get the feeling that 2:54's time will come.