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Windy and Carl

The Dream House / Dedications to Flea

(Kranky; US: 8 Nov 2005; UK: 21 Nov 2005)

A sense of urgency is not often the first thing that comes to mind when the attributes of a release in the genre called “drone” is being discussed. Drone is typically the study of the static, favoring slow evolution and the grounding power of a single, constant tone over dynamic movement and contrast. In terms of technical details, the new double-album from Windy and Carl follows this template; in more subtle ways, however, it is far more vital than the typical drone album has any aspiration to ever be.


The Dream House / Dedications to Flea is the first major release from Windy and Carl in nearly five years, but its release was sudden, the result of a number of spurts of inspiration that happened very quickly, allowing music that had been developing and gestating for a long, long time to at last be given its final, definitive recording. Tragically, those spurts of inspiration were brought on by a pair of deaths, both of which affected the duo in major, life-changing ways.


The Dream House is not for the impatient. It begins with a piece called “The Eternal Struggle”, and at over 30 minutes long, it will certainly feel like as much to the consumer expecting the pulsing, more dynamic (and, admittedly, shorter) drone work of Windy and Carl’s past. “The Eternal Struggle” is a song that has become something of a hymn, a statement of reverence and peace dedicated to Windy’s departed mother. It was actually originally written over seven years ago, but the recent events in Windy’s life brought this new inspiration to the recorded version of the song. The drone on display is steeped in what sounds like a church organ that starts with a mid-range open fifth, but ever so slowly morphs over the course of the track. The notes played by the organ get higher and higher, not by any sort of pitch-bending technique, but by the very slow fade in and fade out of notes, allowing for some very nice harmonies when two chords are in a “transition” phase. The song features quiet bass and guitar textures as well, but it is that organ that takes center stage, eventually concluding after 30 beautiful minutes in the same key as it started, except octaves higher than it was at the start, and with an added third that completes the chord in a peaceful, contented, major-key way.


The effect? Ascension, underscored by the gentle jingle of wind chimes.


“I Have Been Waiting to Hear Your Voice” is something of an epilogue to “The Eternal Struggle”, also dedicated to Windy’s mother, but this time with a drone built on E-Bowed guitars rather than any sort of keyboard. The source of the drone allows for more development, and the shifting of the sounds happens quicker and more obviously than in the first track. “I Have Been Waiting to Hear Your Voice” is slightly less evocative than its predecessor, but is more likely to be enjoyed by someone looking for the old Windy and Carl.


The second disc is a reissue of Dedications to Flea, an EP that was first released earlier this year as part of the Brainwashed label’s “handmade” series of releases. Indeed, the liners to this edition contain some hearty thanks to Brainwashed founder and head honcho Jon Whitney, who evidently spurred the duo along in the process of finally releasing new material. The disc is a two-track dedication to the couple’s dearly departed dog, which might seem a slightly odd source of great pain until you read the lovingly detailed obit / explanation in the aforementioned liner notes, words that provide an explanation of just how integral a piece of their life that dog was for 14 solid years. The inclusion of a number of pictures of ‘Flea’ invites the listener further into the duo’s world, allowing an intimate look at a close, loving friendship. Musically, “Ode to a Dog” rides a gentle pulse across the ocean and into the sunset, while “Sketch for Flea” actually incorporates a recording of its subject as a focal point for a piece more still than any other on either CD.


Taken together, The Dream House and Dedications to Flea are a rumination on the deaths of loved ones and the effect those deaths can have. The spontaneity comes from the unexpectedness of the events described, while the urgency comes from the extreme desire to immortalize the tracks’ inspirations in sounds that suit those subjects as perfectly as possible. These are drones for a dark room, drones to cry to, drones to sleep to, drones that, on the right night, can invoke the most extreme sense of joyful peace. Both of these CDs hold treasures. It is now up to you, dear reader, to discover them.

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Mike Schiller is a software engineer in Buffalo, NY who enjoys filling the free time he finds with media of any sort -- music, movies, and lately, video games. Stepping into the role of PopMatters Multimedia editor in 2006 after having written music and game reviews for two years previous, he has renewed his passion for gaming to levels not seen since his fondly-remembered college days of ethernet-enabled dorm rooms and all-night Goldeneye marathons. His three children unconditionally approve of their father's most recent set of obsessions.


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