Windy & Carl - "Looking Glass" (We Will Always Be)
It had been a while since I’d spent serious time with the music of Dearborn, Mich., duo Windy & Carl, but in preparation for We Will Always Be, I found myself digging deep into their past, listening again, drawing a straight line, starting with their debut album, Portal, and following it all the way to 2008’s The Dream House / Dedications Of Flea double EP. About half way through, I began to wonder whether Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren were the most patient duo in modern music, both with the music they make and with each other (they are also in a long-term relationship). For their music — loosely defined, a kind of space-rock that comes down heavier on the space, mostly via long, arcing waves of guitar texturology — is the very model of incremental development.
That’s not to imply they’re either conservative or afraid to experiment. Rather, Windy & Carl test out and redraw their parameters slowly, while tending lovingly on each record to a careful selection of songs. (In this respect, they remind me of Vini Reilly’s Durutti Column, in their early-mid ’80s heyday, though Windy & Carl have replaced the “verticality” of Reilly’s pointillistic guitar playing with a gradual, “horizontal” unfurling of notes and chords.) And if We Will Always Be was borne of slightly differing circumstances than usual — originally a solo set gifted from Carl to Windy, they re-worked the songs, with Windy overdubbing vocals and a guitar part — it loosely fits the template the duo have been using for some time now. In many ways, this is the closest we get to Carl’s vision of the duo, though they are so simpatico that there’s no major shift in focus.
What you do get on We Will Always Be are songs that move tidally, though each has its own distinct character and temperament, from the weightless shiver of “Looking Glass” to the coruscating walls of fuzz that push the epic closer, “Fainting in the Presence of the Lord,” out into the stratosphere. There’s something of the ebb and flow of the natural world in these songs, and they almost scan like a set of tone poems to the elements. At the same time, Windy’s vocals and lyrics here are relatively disarmed, singing of her love for Carl on the opening “For Rosa,” humming gently to herself in the midst of “Remember,” and indulging in some Sprechstimme on the glorious “Nature Of Memory.” Windy’s words don’t receive enough attention, but they are deceptively plain-spoken, soliloquizing the quiet, personal moments of everyday life with your loved one, and then re-casting those moments on a grand scale while threading them in between Carl’s walls of blissful noise.
In fact, Windy & Carl’s greatest achievement on We Will Always Be is making music that’s both near and far. It often feels vast, tracking the curvature of the Earth, but it never forgets that music is made by people, and that there is real intimacy in the consort of two individuals relating to each other through simple gestures like singing, or brushing against six guitar strings. There’s a lot to be learnt here, about quietly but persistently following your own path, and making the music that matters most to you and your loved ones. These gift-songs are a library of experience, each one opening out, “the smell of old books” now on your fingers, while drifting off in an athenaeum of the ears.