The latest collaborative release from Lisa Papineau and Juan Alderete finds the two musicians again working very well to create their own individual achievement separate from their other work, a strong instance of atmospherics and understatedly compelling performances at a time when there's plenty of good candidates to choose from. Papineau's voice retains that quality of compelling focus mixed with inward consideration from her solo work, and with Alderete focusing on the electronic possibilities that offers, the result's often quite lovely. If anything, the opening "Regions," thanks notably to the use of fretless bass, suggests a post-hip-hop/techno approach for something like Dali's Car, with a distinct vocalist meeting up with a multi-instrumentalist to see what results. Overall the feeling of restraint and crisp focus remains paramount on Before Gardens After Gardens, as on "Born with a Tear," a bit of a dreamy ballad from some David Lynch/Portishead intersection point given a gentler focus, or "Ready on the Line" as nervous, trebly music, Papineau at once swooping and intensely cutting. But then there's a peppy little swing of a number like "Right Action," with space age pop grooves, quirky keyboards, and electronic astringency as Papineau delivers a sweetly passionate performance, and the steady anthemic punch and groove of "Be Brave Go On," not a rabble-rouser per se but the closest thing the album has to it. "The Kindest Hour" is one of several moments when subtle backing vocals take the song to calm, familiar places, but other moments -- like the break into Hammond organ and descending bass, like a sudden late Talk Talk-style edit even while the careful pop focus continues, followed then by a shift toward a full duet, squirrelly vocals, and feeling like a moody Peter Gabriel number -- show the duo's abilities in full flight.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett