Winterlight – The Longest Sleep Through The Darkest Days.

“The Longest Sleep Through The Darkest Days” is the second album from Winterlight following on from 2011’s “Hope Dies Last” which was a solo release from Plymouth musician Tim Ingham and was a distillation of years absorbing post punk and shoegaze music to create something of his own which he describes a “Post Pop”. Prior to this album he released an album under the Lightsway moniker. Leading up to the release of this album (the first with daughter Isabel on bass) a single as released featuring the track “I Can’t Start Being Happy For Feeling Sad” which came with two exclusive non album tracks.

According to the label: ” This new album is the culmination of nearly seven years of on and off creative spurts, false starts and second guesses reflecting the turmoil hinted at in the album’s title. Yet those that follow Winterlight know Tim’s being making music pretty much all along and releasing occasional demos via his Soundcloud…..The Longest Sleep Through The Darkest Days” has all the Winterlight earmarks: divine organs, thoughtfully constructed drums, the occasional electronic flourish and, Oh… those immaculately soaring guitars! While Ingham considers Winterlight to be post-pop, and for the most part the duo still bring those meoldies to the table in spades, there are some unique changes happening under the surface in the album’s bookends that move beyond simple ear candy. This shows the Inghams are starting to take risks while staying true to the original vision of the project.”

“Calm then a Storm” clearly noticeable as soon as the album starts off is how sonically lush it is. There is a definite down tempo feel, but the track is saturated with lush waves of synth drones that have long streams of ambience. Ripples of fractured sound break through the thick fabric of drones allowing the light airy ambience break through which then takes over the track once the drum machine kicks in. The impression is like coming through a particularly heavy situation and seeing light at the end of the tunnel which in a way is the reverse of the title. The synths pulse a rhythm over which soaring ambience layers swarm around leaving a cloudy ending that seems to take the listener to the tail end of the storm.

“I Can’t Start Being Happy For Feeling Sad” the album’s preceding single starts with a mournful church like organ with fractured beats leading into a section that opens up with light guitar work that reminds me of elements of Hammock alongside Isabel’s slightly dirty bass rumble, before retro futuristic synth explorations lead into the next opening of guitar entwined ambience. The music manages to traverse genres like IDM, ambience and shoegaze, but yet is not beholden to one. The way the guitars and synths soar is uplifting under which piano lines reveal a delightful melody. Towards the end of the track the church organ returns in loops over which the fractured beats are layered.

“Risen Again” a darker stormy ambient tone is at odds with a melodic drone and almost submerged keys which starts up the nostalgia like melody alongside snatches of beats. The music easily moves into bright territory with shimmering sounds of affected guitar and radiating out ambience. Subtle nuances introduce new sections such as the addition of a more beat oriented transition that focuses the track away from being purely ambient. The piece then changes once more retaining some of the earlier elements such as the clipped beats, but not having the same color to it. The piece once more goes widescreen with its Shoegaze influences coming to the fore.

“Stretch Out And Away I Go” chiming jangly guitars with electronic pulse like percussion is joined by small truncated synth stabs before the track goes full-blown IDM with the scattered beats venturing into a synth dominated section before the guitars start ringing in once more. The multiple layers of the track from beats to guitars, bass, synth give the feeling of a complete painted canvas. The music doesnt suffocate or be too saturated, it just is filled with an ever-changing palate of sound , texture and tempo. For a title of the album such as it is you would get an impression of bleakness, but that is far from the reality of the music contained in the album.

“Hinterland” a glacial windswept sound opens the track like a walk on a freezing morning where the sun has just started to rise, there is frost on the grass and a chill in the air. Slow beats and bass brings forth a retro sounding horn like synth section from which sound ripples out like a pebble thrown into a lake. The music reaches out bathing the listener much like the sun that is starting to heat up the day. The ambient synths have a strong vocal feel which give it a choral sound. There are break downs that divide the track into sections which help the track build and create moods.

“The Closer We Come” synth progressions cloaked in an oscillating ambience provide the intro for the most pop orientated track on the album. Propulsive percussion, fluid bass lines, strong sections of ambience and techno like keyboards take the track in an ’80s direction led by the keyboards and the very subtle, but essential bass which steers he track and gives its identity. The track changes towards the end with it becoming a pure synth track with waves of ambience, multiple layers of different repetitive synth progressions and more very subtle bass.

“The Longest Sleep” comes in two versions. The first is an eleven and a half-minute epic and the second, a download bonus, clocks in at just under twenty-eight minutes in length. For the shorter version darker drones with spindly dubby guitar sounds form a layer for glassine keys, shimmering guitar lines and drones that sound a collection of sound layers traveling at different speeds and thickness. Glacial synths start to overwhelm the sound with thick stabs of coldness as the guitar starts to twang before it almost all fades out to silence with drone elements beginning the re-build. They start slowly and quietly building up in intensity and texture with a very airy feeling as if you are being transported places. To balance the feeling of lightness there is a darker almost throat singing type drone that with the top lighter drones forms a section in which the remaining drones fit into. The track reaches further and further out with its ambience and the intensity goes up a notch to when the drum machine kicks in the track has reached its apex. The music soars with a great speed of rumbling and loud ambience which is under pinned by the metronomic beat. The track is intent in taking the music and the listener to the precipice, but just as it’s about to fall of the cliff, the beats and intensity vanish alongside the darker edge to leave just a lush rich ambient outro. For the longer version there are some changes in the music other than obviously the length. The intensity feels more prolonged, extra elements of guitar added and the ambient break down leads into a later re-birth. Personally, while I like both, my preference is towards the shorter version as it feels like a distillation of the elements and while it lasts over eleven minutes it has a certain degree of immediacy to it.

Don’t let the promo photo below, the back story to the album’s genesis or the title of the album fool you. This is not some music which evokes despair or misery. Quite the opposite, it evokes joy and happiness. The amount of light that shines from the tracks contained herein is second to none. The music is rich, lush and full with a clarity that even these middle-aged affected ears can’t help but notice. Comparisons have been made to Ulrich Schnauss, which to a degree are accurate, but Winterlight are able to hold their own. Recommended.

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