The first wave of recorded music was physical, the second digital, and the third personal. One of the best things to come from the digital revolution was a response from the creative art industry: a wash of physical releases that one just had to have. Brian Records has been manning the forefront of this quiet revolution, creating items of beauty accompanied by music of special note. While Of Use has been a long time coming, the delay was in the design. Pre-orders ran concurrently with an art invitation, and the results are printed in the accompanying softbound journal.
I hate to make our readers jealous, because I have a copy and you don’t. So please peruse this review and then get on the mailing list. Not everything from the label will be available elsewhere, and the releases that manage to make the general market won’t last long. When fans open the envelope, they find a hand-glued square fold-out cover housing a lovely clear piece of vinyl (with particularly nice writing on Side B) and the aforementioned journal: a collection of miscellaneous sleeve art submitted throughout the gestation process. Inside the journal is a CD3″ containing the five tracks found on the vinyl, along with a prologue by Clem Leek and an additional piece. It’s neat to see what the fans have come up with, neater still to see the work collected.
All of this is lovely in its own right, and worth the purchase even without the music. Fortunately, the package is made complete by 20 minutes of tender sonic craftsmanship. Winther’s songwriting is intelligent without being obtuse, catchy without being mainstream. The gentle tone is the the first thing one notices; Winther approaches the listener carefully, hands upturned so as not to frighten. Although his framework is folk, he adds other elements as well, including post-rock on “Lights” and electronic drone on “Not Nor Dread”. Leek’s rising-volume prologue is nearly post-rock as well.
Winther’s first words are “I was born with wheels instead of legs”. This statement makes an apt secondary overture (a primary overture on the vinyl). As the music of “Lights” rises from country pluck to slow barnstorming jam, the lyrics transform from tentative and sorrowful to confident and triumphant: “I am a race car slowing; I am a forest fire glowing.” But while “Lights” is the finest musical track, “St. Michael” (which features the talents of Nils Frahm) is the most lyrically appealing. A slight similarity to The Church’s “Under the Milky Way” provides a light wave of nostalgia. On this as well as his other tracks, Winther lowers his lyrics into gentle cradles, then rocks them to sleep.
We may have to wait a while for the next Brian Records release, but Winther has just released a free download on Vintermusik. This one lands in the realm of instrumental, experimental drone, offering further evidence of his diverse capabilities. For more on that release, see his website below. And get on that Brian Records mailing list today! (Richard Allen)