Winona - Rosebud
Winona is a project comprising musicians Craig Armstrong and Scott Fraser, with vocals provided by French actress Laurence Ashley and singer Lucy Pullin. Together the quartet have created a series of glacial, imperious soundscapes reminiscent of Kraftwerk at their most magisterial. Mood pieces more often than not equal self-important snorefests, but Rosebud is invested with a real vitality that lifts it above many of its contemporaries. Craig Armstrong's history in scoring films comes across strongly in the strikingly cinematic feel imbued in Rosebud, and the album also includes elements of Massive Attack, a group Armstrong worked with on their album Protection.
Opener The White Room's skyscraping melodies are placed somewhere in between Sigur Ros and Air, while Celebrity's distant but curiously emotive tomes are accompanied by the album's most straightforward electro beats. Alpine Tunnel is the LP's closest brush with Cafe del Mar-style tedium and coupled with the prettily minimal but ultimately plodding De Nada make up the album's dry patch. Without You features one of Pullin's best vocals, a breathy effort over an insistent track that sounds like a lost disco classic, while bubbling synths, clinical drum machine beats and glitchy techno bleeps come together to make up You Can Dance, I Can't, a beguiling concoction climaxing with a haunted, soaring vocal.
The majority of the tracks stay within the four-minute mark, which makes closer Winona Falls all the more epic - listening to Rosebud you get the nagging feeling that it was building up to... something. And when it finally arrives the results are stunning. Unsettling vocals dance over sparse minor chords before giving way to scattershot chimes and bursts of 8-bit noise, with every second of the nine-minute long seeming completely vital. The album gives reason for high expectations for whatever the quartet come up with next.