March 26, 2003

Windy & Carl "Introspection: 1993-2000"

Windy and Carl are a duo in love, and for two people they sure do make an orchestra-size racket. Since 1993, they've been making soft, sensual, slow, blissed-out noise. Though they're kind of obscure, they've never failed to deliver anything that's less than wonderful. Along the way, their albums have helped many labels develop a reputation for quality, including Kranky, Ba Da Bing, Burnt Hair, Darla, Earworm, and Enraptured. They came of age during the mid-nineties, a surprisingly fertile era for spaced-out blisspop, and though names such as Flying Saucer Attack, Jessamine, and Labradford might not mean much now, at the time, all of these bands seemed poised to...well, you know...herald in a new era of electronic music.

Introspection: 1993-2000 is Windy & Carl's own handpicked, handmade retrospective, documenting their first seven years of music-making. While you might think that three discs' worth is a bit much, I'll be forthright and say that after listening to this collection numerous times, I don't think I'm all that sure I know all that much about Windy & Carl. Sure, there's a wonderful booklet, with pictures of flyers and record sleeves and photos and artwork, as well as detailed notes for each song, and that's quite good, but who are they? While most bands could easily put 70-100 songs on a three disc set, Windy & Carl only have enough space for thirty-seven songs! Does that tell you anything about how long some of their songs are?

The songs on Introspection have been divided into three distinct categories: singles, compilations, and live/unreleased. The singles disc is first, and of the three, it's the calmest, as most all of the songs are studio recordings. It's also quite apparent that these two love nature and the cold, as it seems to be a subject that appears quite frequently, at least in the titles--"Crazy in the Sun," "Clouds Within You," "Snowing," "Green," "Dragonfly, to name but a few of 'em. Songs simply go on, not really meandering, not really plodding--they simply flow. You'd expect a band's sound to change somewhat from the first single, but that's certainly not the case with Windy & Carl. Songs like "Green" (from a split with Hopewell) and "Snowing" are two songs that make Introspection a worthwhile purchase. Heck, you're never going to find MOST of these records anywhere, so this first disc fills a nice little void.

On the second disc, "Compilations," the sound gets a little bit rougher. Sure, there are some pretty quiet moments, (such as the sleep-inducing "Beyond Asleep") but there's a bit more roughness to their formula. Harsher? No, not really; it's due mainly to the fact that a few of their compilation appearances were recordings from live appearances. It's quite fascinating, though, that this quiet band is obviously a very LOUD live act, as apparent on "Underground, "a live recording from 1997, which the band says was at the 'beginning stages of our instrumental/noise/drone performances.' (What, and your other shows were singalongs?). Seeing as they're probably not going to come to a city near you anytime soon, the live tracks on here more than suffice, though maybe a singular live disc/seperate boxed set of live performances might be nice. (Hint, hint!) One thing to note, though, is that several of the live performances are untitled, leading me to wonder if they do a lot of improvisation and song composition onstage?

The third disc, "Live + Unreleased," is perhaps my favorite disc of the set. It starts off with a four song, twenty minute live radio appearance. It certainly makes me a little bit jealous of this particular city, because these four songs, "Fuzzy," "Undercurrent," "Set Adrift," and "Hipnos" are just so utterly gorgeous. The rest of the disc contains alternate takes and demos of previously unreleased songs, my favorites being two different versions of "Lighthouse" and the beautiful epic "Whisper." While these songs don't particularly differ that much from the released versions (some of which are included here), they're still extremely gorgeous put together in one place, and again I wonder if the songs they finish and release are edited down from much longer compositions.

On one of the discussion lists I subscribe to, it's not uncommon for DJ's to advertise their shows by posting their playlists. One fellow on the list has/had a radio show that was on from 4:00 AM to 7:00 AM on Sunday morning, which specialized in dreampop. Windy & Carl are a band he plays a lot, and listening to Introspection: 1993-2000, it's easy to understand why. Their music is the sound of a Sunday morning sunrise, while the world's partially asleep and the day is fresh. Perhaps if I had a radio show I'd do the same as this fellow, because Windy & Carl's music is a beautiful dreamlike state. Three hours of Windy & Carl? Why do I feel like that wasn't enough? We hardly got a chance to get to know ya! A beautiful, essential collection--and I wish more bands took it upon themselves to release such wonderful and lovingly-made compilations!

--Joseph Kyle

No comments: