ACL 2013: The Year’s Best Winter Music

my-home-sinkingWinter music begins with the sound of wind and freezing rain, the crackle of ice and the soft tap of snowflakes.  It continues with the sound of boots on snow, shovels and snow plows.  Months later, it concludes with melting icicles and thawing lakes.  Recording artists capture these sounds with field recordings and reflect them through compositions.  Their most successful efforts reflect not only the natural world, but the thoughts and emotions that accompany the season ~ the joy of the first snowflakes, the warmth of family around a hearth, the fear of being snowed in.  These are the finest winter recordings we heard in 2013, and together they reflect the fullness of the season.  They are presented in recommended listening order, from late autumn to early spring.

woodworkings ~ day breaks the morning shapes we speak (Own Records)
This gorgeous album maps the transition from autumn to winter.  An array of intricate arrangements incorporates field recordings, piano, cello, breath and subtle electronics.  Winter arrives at the LP’s midpoint; the closing tracks provide the soundtrack for a drive home in the early winter snow.

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Fabrizio Paterlini ~ Now
Paterlini describes Now as his “snow album”, but it can be placed on either side of the season.  A peaceful yearning suffuses the album with glowing grace.  We’re not yet ready to settle in for the season, but the time is drawing near.

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Endless Melancholy ~ Five Songs
Alex Sakevych’s improvised piano EP offers the sound of post-holiday melancholy, as the company has left and the birds have gone quiet.  One might sit on the park bench, alone, or gaze at the wood through a window.  Inspired by the poet Ivan Androschuk, Five Songs is the sadness of a Ukrainian winter, as melancholic as the artist’s name.

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Various Artists ~ Winter EP (Feral Media)
A nod to Down Under, where winter has already passed.  Four disparate tracks provide a quartet of views, from forlorn to friendly, somber to celebratory.  The Seasons series continues in 2014 ~ stay tuned for more!

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Parhelion ~ Temples in Ice (Kalpamantra)
Dark drones and glacial soundscapes dominate this oppressive EP, which reflects the danger of the coldest climes.  Skin can freeze in an instant; white-out conditions can cause one to lose one’s way.  Yet great majesty can be found in the scale of these compositions.  This is the cold that kills.

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My Home, Sinking ~ S/T (Fluid Audio)
My Home, Sinking is an album of survival.  The lyrics delve into the deepest winter, one of foreboding and loss.  But when the vocals fade, a different human sound emerges: that of a figure emerging from the storm.

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Fescal ~ Two Winter Poems (Dronarivm)
Under ice, a river glitters, writes Alexandr Pushkin in “Winter morning”, one of two poems who find their reflection in Fescal’s shimmering drones.  The poet may have written in exile, dreaming of home; but the memory of his homeland kept him warm throughout the winter.

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Jared Smith ~ Home (Own Records)
The first of two albums on this list inspired by visits to Iceland, Home amplifies the themes of Two Winter Poems above.  Smith found each place he visited to be home, and captured its sounds ~ a flagpole, a coffee maker, a bicycle bell ~ for this sonic travelogue.

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Kate Carr ~ Songs from a Cold Place (Flaming Pines)
When Kate Carr visited Iceland this spring, she found herself thrown back into winter, but pleasantly so; she experienced her first blizzard, and picked up some new instruments to accompany her crisp field recordings.  The album found its inspiration in a cold climate, but its timbres are warm.

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Seaworthy + Taylor Deupree ~ Wood Winter Hollow (12k)
Earlier this year, Taylor Deupree invited Cameron Webb (Seaworthy) to New York’s Hudson Valley to tour the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and to record this tender album.  This is music of hope and revival, the recovery of a region during the passing of its toughest season.

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