Rosary Bleeds takes the road hinted at with those 90s synth chords and follows it all the way down. While the other two releases feel like very communal creations with no single voice dominating, Rosary Bleeds is centred on Alison O'Donnell's dramatic vocals. The backdrop is almost entirely synthetic; clicking drum machines, burbling, proto-melodic leads, deep bass. Clean electric guitar sometimes adds to the texture with simple, single strums.
There is almost nothing to suggest that the same band is present on all three releases, and indeed they are not. Thepersonnel change even within single tracks, and O'Donnell had yet to join the band when I Am Full Gibbous was recorded. Rosary Bleeds is perhaps the first record where the singer is so utterly central and it is definitely an outlier within the vast United Bible Studies catalogue. Unlike the others here, it is strongest when it is at its most restricted and focused.
There are a couple of tracks, mostly at the beginning and end, which feature real drums; but the splash of cymbals and the ragged snare hits cannot compete with the programmed patterns for impact, or even for groove. A track like 'Here Come The Rambling Men' is interesting for its integration, with a solid blend of the drone and banjo heard before with this new synth-driven mix, while 'Apartment 6' is possibly the most Radiohead-like track of them all, with its beautiful arpeggio that dances ambiguously between consonance and dissonance. O'Donnell's voice is uneasy, shorn of all reverb, singing in awkward harmony with herself. It's playful, bright and yet unnerving.
The end is gloriously layered, another lead melody appearing above and around the arpeggio, taking the whole thing to new heights. The best is saved for last however, with 'Pull Up Our Hoods' showcasing O'Donnell's vocals at their most radio-friendly, a breathy performance full of rhythm that finds a perfect home amid the minimal synth accompaniment. There are echoes of Kate Bush, circa The Sensual World, but darker, sharper.
- Ian Maleney The Wire March 2017