PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Windy & Carl: We Will Always Be

Windy & Carl have spent so long rendering the physical into abstraction, but here they muddy the waters, combining the material and the intangible in new and surprising ways.

Windy & Carl

We Will Always Be

US Release: 2012-01-30
Label: Kranky
UK Release: 2012-02-13
Artist Website
Label Website

The excitement in Windy & Carl's music comes in how the married couple inverts our expectations of organic music. They sound, well, alien. In fact, their music's vibe often aligns more with ambient electronica than most any pop music featuring live instrumentation. The music's draw, though, comes in its ass-backwards approach to sound. If electronic music is about rendering blood-and-bone feeling out of cold mechanics, out of the unnatural, Windy & Carl take the wholly natural sounds -- guitar, bass, voice -- and make them limitless. They cut them free from our contained world of pop structures. They start in the natural musical world and expand beyond it, rather than working their way in from the outside.

As if to remind us of this organic base in their sound, the duo's new record, We Will Always Be, begins with what might be their strangest song yet. "For Rosa" is strange because it actually sounds like a song. An acoustic guitar gets strummed; a voice nearly enunciates words in a way you can understand. Its pieces are distinct from each other, even down to the ability to hear when one strum of a chord ends and the other begins. If we're used to sonic blending from Windy & Carl, in the melding of smudged sounds into something more atmospheric, then this straight-ahead song is the outlier in their long discography. It's also a perfect start to this, their latest great record. It's a starting point, a dock to tether Windy & Carl's sonic sounds to even as you realize that the tether is a long one, that they will still drift out to sea. No matter how far they wander here, "For Rosa" is still off in the distance, still attached, still there to tell us that these songs are of the world, and beautifully so, even as they aspire to expand beyond it.

After "For Rosa", we drift into territory we're more familiar with in the music of Windy & Carl. "Remember" shimmers endlessly, with Windy's vocals drifting in and out over airy keys and the slow, steady thump of a bass. Along with later tracks like "The Smell of Old Books", this song feels like what we already know about the band, but it also confirms that there's still plenty to learn in their sound, countless layers to dig through and get lost in. We're still lured into these songs, no matter how well-worn and familiar they may seem.

Other moments, though, distinguish We Will Always Be as a distinct shift for the band. With the more physical sound of "For Rosa" in mind, other songs find certain instruments breaking through the soaring miasma to assert themselves. They're not quite riffs, but they do establish clear lines that run though and eventually fade from the otherwise expansive, seemingly formless movements. Tension grows on snapped-off guitar notes on "Spires". A high trickling hook rises and falls through the chilly tones of "The Frost in Winter". Even "Looking Glass", which presents itself as a more gauzy ambient movement, has a white-noise grind that slowly takes over the airy keys that dominate the track.

This all builds to the album's finest achievement, the nearly 19-minute closer "Fainting in the Presence of the Lord". The song perfectly meshes this physical organic side with the band's trademark alien space. As the song moves on, it shifts its focus from those drifting keys to a biting, grating wave of distortion. You can picture the player leaned over the guitar, teasing these tones out. You can picture the barely visible vibration of the amp's speaker, imagine the sound travelling through wires to get to you. It's a sound felt far more than it's heard, and it becomes all-encompassing. The more you listen to it the more you'll feel a part of it. Windy's vocals, treated to sound acidic and broken down, hide far down in the mix, but you'll find yourself digging for them, trying for a connection. As much as the music here aims for the stratosphere, in the end, it circles back around, returns to that dock where we've been waiting, gathering itself all around us.

.We Will Always Be is the rare record that feels both comforting -- it is, front to back, a Windy & Carl record -- and wholly fresh. The band has spend so long rendering the physical (i.e. instruments) into abstraction (i.e. ambient sound), but here, they muddy the waters, combining the material and the intangible, the natural and the alien, in new and surprising ways. The more we get lost, the more we find. The less we can see the borders, the more things start to take shape.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.