Arthur Beatrice, not a solo artist but rather a quartet of school friends from London, is a band that likes to be in control. They run their own label, Open Assembly, take charge of all their own gig bookings and promotions, and have been quietly and carefully working on their debut album Working Out for the past 18 months. Their hands-on approach to every aspect of their music is very obvious here, and almost painfully so: the overall result feels so meticulously planned and cautious that it fails to leave any lasting impressions.
Their sound has inevitably led to comparisons with The XX, with sparse instruments and both Orlando Leopard and Ella Girardot sharing lead vocals. The contrasts between their interweaving vocals are the most interesting moments of the album. Girardot sounds full of real, vulnerable emotion on ‘Late’; her melodic voice complements the smooth, brooding baritone of Leopard. When the two combine, as on ‘Grand Union’, it’s the highlight of the debut.
Working Out is certainly not a bad album – it is inoffensive, unassertive and, dare I say it, nice. It is the kind of album that could wash over you for hours on repeat during a late night session in the Edward Boyle, but won’t leave you humming any of the songs the next day. There are hints of something truly special dropped throughout, but ultimately, Working Out lacks any real bite.