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Windsor For The Derby - Calm Hades Float / Minnie Greutzfeldt

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Artist: Windsor For The Derby

Album: Calm Hades Float / Minnie Greutzfeldt

Label: Secretly Canadian

Review date: Aug. 7, 2006

Windsor for the Derby’s first two records, Calm Hades Float and Minnie Greutzfeldt, fit their times (mid 1990s) almost too well. If post-rock or space rock were ever to develop into something of lasting value, it needed to move beyond limp applications of factory pre-sets and vaporous mood music masquerading as isolationism. Windsor for the Derby sat somewhere in the middle, neither making profound leaps into uncharted territory, nor wallowing in the mire of by-rote Cosmic Courier retread. If anything, retrospect proves the group more indebted to the frosty chilblain pop of early-'80s 4AD and Factory music, tempered by an emotional restraint unknown to dour Goths.

I wonder if that parallel has much to do with Windsor for the Derby’s choice of guitar sound – a glassy, strangely hollow timbre, at times swamped with reverb, icy and brittle. It serves them well on the quiet, weaving instrumentals that make up a good portion of Calm Hades Float, where melodic tics flit gamely around each other. There’s something post-Slint in the tangled vines of guitar, but Windsor for the Derby wisely opt out of the leaden dynamics so beloved of that group and their inheritors.

Not everything on Calm Hades Float works: the drum machines plod, molding Derby’s pieces into gracelessly half-formed songs with murmured vocals. Some of the atmospherics are a bit ham-fisted, but Calm Hades Float is a formative document: it sets out parameters the group worked through on later records. The live tracks appended to the disc leave a sour taste in the mouth, with a primitive version of Minnie Greutzfeldt’s “Skimming” using ineffectual spoken word tapes, but in their favor, these recordings are the first evidence of a drummer in the ranks.

This development enlivens their more effective second album, Minnie Greutzfeldt. All the clumsiness of Calm Hades Float is gone, replaced by an elegant disposition. “Stasis” builds on the interweaving compositions that enlivened their first album, filling the sound out with insinuating live drums. “Skimming” spends two minutes stating its case before dissolving into a beautiful, primordial mud of drone. This reissue is extended with the Metropolitan Then Poland EP, which consisted mostly of a clutch of nice if inconsequential electronics pieces, of which “Exposite, Moving Florida” is screwy enough to fit on a record from mid-'90s Cologne. But Minnie Greutzfeldt itself is all you need, one of the better albums to drop – almost unnoticed at the time, from recollection – from the Texan space-rock skies.

By Jon Dale

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