It seems incongruous to review a winter album in summer (apologies to our Australian readers, for whom the timing is perfect!). Even Puremagentik Tapes writes that the set “has a warmth that feels more like the stirring of earth.” But small winters need not be restricted to the calendar, as they may also capture a state of mind.
In like fashion, we also prefer to play the cassette in reverse: Side B before Side A. Side B contains seven three-letter vignettes that match the title in size and tone (air, elm, tea, wet) and act as the score to a small winter. Tape loops, ARP 2600 and glockenspiel twirl through filtered light, exposing different facets to the sun. But the prize of the package is a plug-in bearing the tape’s title, created by Taylor Deupree and label owner Micah Frank. This plug-in is also available with the download for no extra charge, so fans can create their own cold seasons at home: an enjoyable pursuit should the summer heat begin to rage and the AC is not enough.
“tea” is one of the most appealing pieces, at 2:22 operating as shorthand for the current year. As one of the most glockenspiel-forward tracks, it comes across as a music box or nursery mobile: a suspension of time in which tone is more important. The same holds true for “elm” at 1:22, albeit with more smudge and deterioration. The tracks are abraded, but not abrasive: soft evidence of natural wear.
After these brief bedtime tales, one might flip to Side A, a single track with the fitting title, “Long Winter.” The piece tumbles, but never cracks; as Deupree puts it, “like walking on a beautiful but questionably frozen lake.” New patterns form as they interact with others, like fern flowers. Like the shorter pieces, “Long Winter” is dislodged from time markers, rising from and falling gently back into silence. At fifteen minutes, even this winter is not that long. As winter is the season of introspection and creativity, we suspect listeners will soon compose small winters of their own. (Richard Allen)