May 20, 2009

Windy & Carl – Antarctica (The Bliss Out, Vol. 2) (1997, Darla Records)

Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren are a duo from Michigan who have been producing dreamy, guitar-based ambient music since the early ‘90s. Their style takes the shoe-gazing guitar sound of groups like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine and stretches it to infinity, producing glittering ambient music without the use of any synthesizers. Instead, e-bows and various pedals are used to sculpt the guitar tone into an endless textural drone. At times it is difficult to discern that the sound is coming from guitars at all, while at other points soft plucked-string arpeggios enter the sonic field, as well as distant, obscured vocals by Windy. I became aware of the duo after hearing positive reviews of their contribution to Darla Records’ “The Bliss Out” album series, entitled “Antarctica.” The title itself gives a pretty good impression of the territory being charted here, with three long tracks totaling about 40 minutes of abstract, tonal drone meditations. The vibe is calm and relaxed, yet vaguely mysterious and at times slightly dark-tinged, but never collapsing into noise or cacophony. This is powerful journeying music which I’ve been recommending to friends for nearly a decade. Following hearing this release, I have been collecting pretty much everything Windy & Carl have put out and have never found myself disappointed. Their following two albums on the brilliant ambient/post-rock label Kranky, “Depths” and “Consciousness” are both excellent excursions into the shoe-gazing ambient sound, as is their most recent “Songs For The Broken Hearted” double LP which Windy & Carl are now touring for (I’ll be at the Portland, OR show this weekend!). Windy & Carl also have run their own record store in Michigan for many years by the name of Stormy Records, where they have also self-released their own and others’ material through their Blue Flea Recordings label, including the fantastic “Introspection” 3CD box set of all their early, rare vinyl and compilation tracks. You can still order Windy Weber’s new solo album “I Hate People” on ltd. ed. blood red or peacock splattered vinyl directly from Stormy Records, it is great stuff, check it out!