Michigan experimental duo Windy Weber & Carl Hultgren, on their first tour in quite some time, stop into DiverseWorks tonight. Their 2008 albumSongs for the Broken Hearted
was quite well-received, but to me, the work that's key to their career is the 1998 LPDepths
Windy & Carl had put out three LPs before Depths, including Antarctica, for the Bliss Out! series by Darla Records (which is most well-known as a distributor), an appropriately icy, lonely and continent-size record that features the duo's first really epic composition in the 22-minute title track. Depths was their first album for then up-and-coming indie label Kranky, and, it appears, the first to get a really wide release. According to their discography, their previous records were mostly released in limited editions of 1,000 copies or fewer. Depths is also the earliest major Windy & Carl release that's still in print, although it seems that second album Portal (originally released on cassette) can still be had without much trouble.
Less diverse than Broken Hearted, Depths uses something as background that sounds like a looped hiss, sometimes shading into feedback. For the "substance" of the songs, Weber and Hultgren use their guitars' volume knobs in conjunction with delay to create vast, slow-moving shapes that I suppose count as melodies. Occasionally, they'll make use of picked or plucked guitar, and Weber sings, lowly and indistinctly, on a couple of tracks. Until you really get deep into the music, it can be hard to discern structure, especially on the longer songs (three tracks top 13 minutes; the title track is an impressive 19 minutes). But it is there.
"Undercurrent" from Depths
Depths is kind of tough to get through, mostly because it is so long -- over 70 minutes -- and it's tempting to relegate this reserved, usually pulse-less music to atmosphere. Indeed, the duo seem to encourage it, describing their music as "great for coloring the background." However, for the best experience, I would recommend close listening, preferably on a set of real headphones. That way, you'll stand a better chance of capturing the nuances of interlocking melodies that collide as slowly as advancing glaciers ("Set Adrift"), chords that form from slowly percolating guitar swells like air bubbles in buried rock ("Depths"), and subtle harmonies that shift and shimmer like the aurora ("Surfacing"), building into the apotheosis of godhead. There is an incredible purity to this heavily processed music that makes it, paradoxically, evoke the wonders of the natural world
Protein: 25%. Not much that Windy & Carl do strikes me as seminal, although it is a superb example of the extreme possibilities of guitar experimentation.
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Fiber: 95%. Challenging and unadulterated. An object lesson in disinterested creativity.
Sugars: 10%. Hardly any vocals and nary a beat to be found. Depths is not party music.
Fat: 5%. Though its songs are long and largely improvised, Depths feels emptied of ego, with just enough sense of self to bind the record together -- barely.
Part of a balanced breakfast? Brown rice and a glass of pure water -- elemental nourishment for a morning of deep meditation.