Rounds have been slowly building steam with a handful of EPs and singles over the last five years or so, but are finally ready to reveal their full-length debut, We've Met Before. The Southend, UK trio of Robert Cooper (vocals, synths), Andrew Chapman (guitars, synths) and Ashley Kemp (drums, samplers) have earned comparisons to Mount Kimbie and Radiohead, though they've still a ways to go to live up to that hype.
After the forgettable opening/title track, "Call" really gets into what Rounds are about: earnestly yearning vocals, funky melodic lines, danceable but intricate EDM beats, and atmospheric reverb. Cooper's vocals are mostly pretty staid, but do add a pleasantly human texture to the mix.
Compared to the dubstep-ish 'wub-wub' of "Falter" from a 2013 EP, the lacklustre production of bass frequencies on this album is particularly disappointing; it almost sounds like whatever LFO or arpeggiator might've livened up the synth bass parts was forgotten about. This feels like quite a missed opportunity especially given that everything else is pretty well done here — the higher frequency percussion is a groovy and clean-sounding blend of live and electronic sounds, for example.
The airy drone that connects "Die Dreaming" and "Feel" as well as the faint synth pulse tying the end of "Fawn" to the beginning of "Sherilyn Fenn" illustrate attention to detail as much as the multi-layered percussion. Cooper's falsetto heights on "Feel" are also an album highlight.
If they can liven up the bass and maybe trim some reverb, Rounds could widen their appeal next time around. There are a lot of great rhythms and riffs that keep this album afloat in the meantime. (Blind Colour)