Album Reviews

Winterwood: Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide

The New Zealand duo return with one of their finest releases yet.

The main focus on Zac and Holly Winterwood has been their fantastic label, East Cape Calling: in our mind, one of the finest discoveries since the birth of Sun 13.

East Cape Calling’s fast-growing catalogue has overshadowed Zac and Holly’s main musical endeavour, Winterwood, where column inches are concerned. In many ways, Winterwood is actually the bricks and mortar of the East Cape Calling story.

A project now consisting of eight releases, Winterwood has always been about atmospheres. Last year’s Sketches in Monochrome was like walking across thin ice through the winter mist. A bone-cold record evoking the images of iron-grey skies, this time around Zac goes it alone with Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide.

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Following the February release of Exploratory Guitar – two humid compositions touching on the meditative aspects of Sunn O))) but with an uplifting William Tyler vibe, Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide sees Winterwood adding subtle new textures and tender nuance. The upright piano a welcome addition to these skeletal compositions that have you reaching for the skies.

Winterwood - Exploratory Guitar Falling Tide

Like its predecessor, ’Falling Tide comprises of two parts, however it feels like a seamless single composition. Just over 36 minutes in length, Winterwood creates the kind of rugged atmospheres that Mark Nelson has been gifting his audience – first with Labradford and more recently as Pan-American. Like Nelson, the emotional power attached to these two pieces make your heart skip a beat.

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With a series of sullen riffs that seemingly emerge from the vortex, Winterwood softly brushes across the ivories, adding a doom-laden vibe evocative of The Necks. In fact, between Part 1 and Part 2, Winterwood occupies a similar milieu to the Australian improv’ veterans’ 2019 live performances. Not in virtuoso but purely in feel. Subtlety immersive without pretence or being obtrusive, Winterwood’s meditative compositions slowly draw you in without you really knowing it at the time. It’s how the best art grabs us.

Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide is all about the mysterious juxtaposition. Something like this shouldn’t provide weighty emotional force, but that’s exactly what it does, going beyond the cinematic lustre that ambient composition often touches upon. Where heartfelt composition in 2022 is concerned, not much has matched Winterwood’s Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide. It’s not only a beautiful journey across lonely landscapes. It’s simply a must listen.

Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide is out now. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

2 replies on “Winterwood: Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide”

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