For a band that’s been releasing material since 2012, a full-length album must come as a relief to long-time fans. Having never heard them myself before today, I went in not knowing what the three-piece would sound like.
The 2-minute instrumental opening really set the scene for what I was about to go through. Ambient synths set the tone, with lead vocalist Rosie Blair’s operatic singing in the background, and a deep, wet guitar track in the background. As Rosie reached an inhumanly high note towards the end, the soft, relaxing intro faded into Pale Saint, a track much more upbeat, but still retaining the ambience of the track before. This and the following song, Ghost, released last October, have a massive shoegaze feel about them, so much so that they could easily be Lush’s children, or, failing that, have stepped out of 90s New York. Overlayed vocals with interesting riffs, guitars with obligatory chorus, and an underlying synth track give the songs a consistent feel, and so I thought I knew where I stood with the band.
Then Heliconia hits you with downtempo drums that slow the pace of the album, and move it in much more of an indietronica direction. There’s only one vocal track through the verses here, which interestingly pushes Rosie’s distinct style of singing to the forefront of the track. How the idea of ‘less is more’ can work in a multi-layered, effects heavy track like this is beyond me, but it’s happened.
By the end of Grey, I’d once again thought that I’d sussed out what the band’s style was, only for my ideas to come crashing down with the start of the New-Order-esque track Heartbeat Overdrive, which is different to the single version Ballet School put out in 2013. There is no way to describe this track without listing a whole load of bands, from Warpaint, to Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as well as a bit of Haim here, some Caribou there, and plenty of other things that make this track unique in its own right. Ballet School have seemingly picked elements out of all their influences and amalgamated them into a some sort of delightful Frankenstein of a song.
After that, I gave up trying to pigeon hole the album and started enjoying it for what it is; a band exploring what they can do with their talents. This really showed just after Heartbeat Overdrive when I was wondering where they could go from there. Their answer? Cherish, a soft, synth-driven track that is still a standout track after the behemoth that preceded it. Rosie’s vocals once again push the limits of human understanding, and the track doesn’t slow the momentum of the album, which would’ve been an easy trap to fall into.
The shoegaze theme made a small comeback towards the end of the album, but I hesitate in trying to define it as that because there are unique elements to each song that mean you can’t fully place it in a single, definite category. Even the band’s first single, All Things Return At Night, which was released 2 years ago in June, is difficult to place. And that’s a track from when the band started out.
The designated party track, Yaoi, came towards the end as I realised the album had nearly come full circle. I made a risky assumption to guess that, after all the energy put into the rest of the album, the final track would be slow, minimalist, and instrumental. I was wrong yet again.
Crush is a downtempo epilogue that still has enough energy to carry the album through to the end with the distinctive ambience that is the only consistent element throughout the entire thing. Ballet School could’ve fallen into another trap here and put another instrumental in, but didn’t, and that extra bit of effort has paid off. My one criticism about the ending is that it ends suddenly, making it sound like the band ran out of studio time and had to cut the album short.
The fact that I was looking for tickets for Ballet School midway through the third track, and then wanted them even more after I’d heard their repertoire says something about how talented this group are. Long-time fans may have had to wait a few years for this record, but they won’t be disappointed. Throughout the album I was taken on a well-thought-out journey full of variation, arriving full circle at the point where I started.
The Dew Lasts An Hour is released on 8th September via Bella Union.