Windy & Carl - "Snow Covers Everything" (Songs for the Broken Hearted)
Dearborn, Mich., duo Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren have been generating drones since 1993, but their song has not remained the same. Their earliest material tended toward the pastel side of the spectrum – pleasant and light but lacking staying power. Around the time that they connected with Kranky the music took on some welcome shading and complexity, and recent efforts have reflected upon the sort of emotions and experiences that darken everyone’s life sooner or later. “Dedications To Flea,” which took up the second disc of their 2005 release The Dream House, was dedicated to their recently deceased dog. (If that sounds like a lightweight topic, you probably haven’t spent a decade with a pet.) Weber’s recent solo effort I Hate People was a fairly purgative endeavor; Songs for the Broken Hearted seems to be more about picking up after things have broken down.
Mind you, “about” is a relative term with W&C. Is a echo-drenched guitar figure really about anything? This record does feature more vocals than is common for the duo, but that’s still speaking relatively since they’ve made whole long-players with nary a verbalization. When Weber does sing, her voice sits so low in the mix that I think of an overloaded rowboat on a choppy lake – don’t rock too hard or you’ll find yourself swimming. The fact that most of her vocal melodies inhabit a narrow pitch range, and don’t move much within it, further relegates the voice to quasi-instrumental status. So while you can glean clues from stray words and from song titles like “La Douleur” and “When We Were,” the sounds are what really register.
While they have scaled back from the side-long dimensions they favored last time out, the duo still favor patient development. Most of Songs’ tracks last from six to 12 minutes long and stay fairly close to a single musical idea. Those with words are sparser, cycling through descending guitar progressions that amplify the sadness in Weber’s voice; they remind me of Roy Montgomery’s work with the Dissolve duo. The purely instrumental pieces are sonically and affectively more diverse, although they still stick close to a recipe of sweet guitar melody drizzled sparingly over a big loaf of delay-generated drone. With a title like “When We Were,” you might expect a meditation on loss; the auditory evidence suggests that maybe they chopped a much longer song title that read “When We Were Last Listening To Sunn 0))), We Decided That They Used Too Many Chords.” “Rhodes” is all trebly swirl, like a view of the stars after lying too long on top of a carousel. Closers “Interlude” and “The Same Moon And Stars” resurrect the Montgomery comparison, but this time it’s his geographically oriented albums Temple IV and Scenes From The South Island that come to mind. And that’s not a bad thing at all, especially since Montgomery doesn’t seem to be doing much these days.
At this point, there’s no denying that Windy & Carl do darkness well. One hopes, for their own sake at least, that they find a way to bring the gravitas and craft of this material to something a bit brighter.