According to Nick Gill, the grey season is not a specific season, but a state of mind: a melancholic morass that may or may not coincide with the onset of winter. That time is growing near, but for many, a spiritual winter is already here. This album is its soundtrack.
When approaching such a project, one seeks to extract larger themes. In this case, the themes are twofold: torpor and tenacity. The former is present in the outer layer: this is not a collection of tunes designed to get out of bed. But the latter inhabits the lower layer: in order to make this music, someone had to feel it, and yet to act ~ to translate the feeling into form. In short, the grey season somehow managed to motivate Gill, who despite his melancholic urges was able to press forward. This tenacity is first apparent midway through the opening track, when the keys begin to shift from minor to major, combatting the foggy electronic drone, an obvious metaphor for depression.
A grey cover, grey titles (“Grey 1-8”, four with subtitles), grey music. In another sense, grey represents the grey area, the space between black and white in which nothing is certain. The nearly inaudible mumbling of the second piece indicates a soul at war. As Natalie Merchant sings, “Color of the sky as far as I can tell is coal grey. Lift my head from the pillow and then fall again” (10,000 Maniacs, “Like the Weather”). The static sounds even deeper on the vinyl, an extra veneer of oppression. Time begins to stretch, minutes into hours, but when one looks at the clock, it’s only minutes after all, the dark spell of an unending day.
Will the cloud lift? It’s a grey season, not a grey life. The title implies the presence of another season beyond the pale. By the fourth track, light percussion begins to break through, like hands reaching for food, a spirit deciding to eat. We shall not drown forever. A slow progression – albeit a crooked line – leads to the concluding piece, “Nocturne”, which adds the motion of the cello, from dark to light and back again, indicating that the struggle is not over, but that the immediate crisis has passed. This is delicate surgery, but the operation is a success. The set refuses to end in hope, as might be expected, substituting instead a metaphorical sigh. On to the next battle we go, damaged but not defeated. (Richard Allen)