Windy & Carl - We Will Always Be
Back after a bit of a break during which a lot of people were assuming they had given up making music, the title of Windy & Carl’s latest album, We Will Always Be, is trying to tell us something. Windy & Carl are a married couple and it's actually quite a sweet story, given that the release date is close to Valentine's Day, that this album was created as a Carl Hultgren solo album and was intended as a Valentine's gift to his wife Windy Weber. For those of you who don't know, Carl plays guitar and Windy plays bass, and this story does explain why this album is covered in guitar textures from start to finish, with bass and vocals perhaps added later in the mix.
By my reckoning, We Will Always Be is the duo's eighth full length album, and by and large it continues their fondness for multi-layered guitars and ambient walls of sound, somewhere between the blissed-out sound of the shoegaze bands, the new age ambient of Harold Budd and the minimal post-rock of Labradford. At 67 minutes in duration, it washes past you and you wonder where the time has gone.
'For Rosa' starts things off in a surprising fashion for them as Windy sings over a single acoustic guitar. There is an ominous sound effects track running in the background and sure enough, the duo's familiar walls of sound aren't far away, as the song turns into the drifting guitars of 'Remember', and Windy's voice becomes just another instrument in the mix.
It's immediately evident that this is a pretty but drifting ambient affair, with very subtle details hidden in the mix. For some this is background music, but for fans of shoegaze, and more edgy ambient music, it's better to listen to it very loudly.
It's difficult to hear the transitions between tracks, as they join and mutate into one cohesive whole. There is no discernible rhythm to anchor this music, so it drifts, but the playing is very controlled. Guitars start to ring and chime towards the end of the aptly named 'Spires', as it glides into the glacial melodies of 'The Frost in Winter' and the even more chilled loops of 'Looking Glass'.
'The Nature of Memory' sounds almost like the start of a second movement with the bass picking out the trace of a melody as the massed guitars swirl around. Voices emerge as whispers half way through; some close, some telephonic. It's a little bit different and it's also my favourite track here.
This turns into 'The Smell of Old Books', perhaps the most dreamy and soporific piece here, with a gentle keyboard note punctuating its flow. The album closes with the epic 18 minute 'Fainting in the Presence of the Lord', a relentless slow-building piece which features the most abrasive guitar of the whole album.
There are no radical departures from earlier Windy & Carl releases, but after eight albums and nearly 20 years into their musical adventure, this is as impressive as any of their releases. For fans of shoegaze, drone-rock and ambient guitar music, this is definitely worth investigating.