Album Reviews

Winterwood: Exploratory Guitar: Cavelands

The New Zealand-based duo release their finest collection of compositions so far.

New Zealand-based duo, Zac and Holly Winterwood have been on some run of form. Spreading their time across new music voyages and their own their record label, East Cape Calling, as Winterwood, Zac and Holly continue to add exciting new chapters to the experimental and post-rock story.

In between the releases of Harakeke and the split with Neil Johnstone, Arriving in the Oceans of Different Views, the pair released the third chapter of their Exploratory Guitar series, Cavelands. Hands down their best so far, Cavelands hones in on stunning sound sculptures that Winterwood have crafted during these beguiling compositions. Emotionally, these compositions see the duo sinking their hooks in, with an array of multi-dimensional sounds designed to wet the corners of the eyes.  

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While Cavelands consists of four compositions, shying away from the preceding two releases in the series which each only have two, here Winterwood flex their muscles, exploring new corners of their ever-evolving sound world. Winterwood are one of the few acts in the experimental space that always have you scrambling for superlatives, and in a bid to give justice to the wonderful array of sounds the pair produce, it’s seemingly a task doomed for failure.

The journey begins with From Underworlds to Oceans. Music that evokes clear pictures with vivid brushstrokes across the canvass. It’s a labyrinth that leads through to the afterlife, with emotive textures, deceptive drones, and melodies that aim straight for the heart. It’s where sound and image align, where once absent friends are reunited.

Winterwood - Exploratory Guitar: Cavelands

It’s almost too much to bear, and you wonder how Winterwood could follow such a stirring piece of work, but with Stargazing Cold Wing they just about better it. With luscious reverb and riffs produced by Zac Winterwood merely brushing across the strings, his style of playing is vital to the overall feel of these recordings. With a gentle resonance and subtle shifts in tone, it creates the kind of emotional waves that breach the secluded parts of the soul.

Side two sees Winterwood delicately shift the needle, starting with 28 Thousand Suns. Here they dip into the cosmic Americana mastered by Blake Conley via his droneroom project, adding their own inflections with cavernous echoes and unique melodic textures that overshadow the drone.

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They flip the script on the eponymous closing composition, as the drone expands, forming as the central idea. With sweltering build-ups that create the kind of intensity not previously heard in the Winterwood canon, it’s another coup, showcasing the duo’s frightening range beyond their masterful melodies and majestic tones.

Cavelands goes beyond the sacred limits Winterwood have so far set out. An hour’s worth of wonderful meanderings, bursting with an emotional intensity seemingly Winterwood can only conjure up. And while Cavelands may suggest the duo reaches their creative arc, it’s not exactly a foregone conclusion that they do. Such a feat seemed impossible following last year’s Exploratory Guitar: Falling Tide, and taking this into account, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Winterwood ascend with future releases. Either way, this much is clear: Cavelands is one of the most frighteningly beautiful releases of the year.

Exploratory Guitar: Cavelands 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.

3 replies on “Winterwood: Exploratory Guitar: Cavelands”

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