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Consciousness

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Album Review

The world of experimental rock is crowded with musicians seeking to add more and varied sounds to their growing body of recorded work, while restlessly seeking to diversify their approach by absorbing more and more from outside their musical universe in terms of form, source, and stylistic considerations. Dearborn, MI, duo Windy & Carl tread a different path: They are interested — no — obsessed with creating a musical aesthetic based solely on digging ever deeper into the sub-subbasement of drone-based guitar music. As evidenced by this, their fourth long player, they've accomplished that. Windy & Carl, with their deceptively spare production mannerisms and subtle shadings of guitars, barely audible vocals, some keyboards, and employed sounds from other spheres, have developed a manner of letting the music speak for itself through them. By getting out of the way, they have developed a signature that belongs to them (apart from stealing an Archie Shepp album cover from the 1970s to illustrate this small wonder). While the tone of their music is always contemplative, it is never static: Movement happens at different speeds, in odd ebbs and flows, but travel is inherently what the music on Consciousness is all about. The beautiful shimmering single notes trilled and echoed repetitively are woven into a quilt of light on "The Sun," offering only glimpses of the atmosphere that underlies the track, which is considerable. A mass of transparent gauze — weighing a ton — gilds the guitar in gold and shimmering, glistening whole tones that find — in their moving back and forth — staggered nuances that create a microtonal ambience, where the drone is finally revealed in its nakedness and reverberating majesty. "Balance (Trembling)" moves from the predominant guitar sound into another field of exploration. The whirring sound of helicopter blades, paired with a guitar's elemental chordal drone, dominate the track. The blades waver in dynamic fibrillation and turn each other around to the point of being unidentifiable in both essence and existence. Is there a keyboard drone here? As long as the whirring continues it is impossible to distinguish how much things are distorted or shifting — though it's obvious they are. And the constancy of the whirring — itself a drone — creates a trembling of anticipation for change, for the unknown to enter, for the caress of a lover's lips upon the skin. Beauty, foreboding, and electric anticipation create a tension not easily or readily resolved, but rather leaving the listener in the midst of its ethos as it trails off fully in possession of its initial elemental mysteries. And this is the pace of Consciousness, moving from inside itself to the sound world outside in order to engage it and observe that interaction. It begins as an embryonic melding of flow and tension and becomes a liquid, hazy, sonic nectar of pleasure and bliss. When "Elevation" begins, the sounds of individual instruments are blurred to the point of no return. There is only a glissando of shimmering tones and indivisible chords reduced by nothing, floating there whole, without any structure to support them. The drones are all whole-toned, offering an overtonal shapelessness that the listener realizes to be the root sound of emotion, though it's impossible to identify any of them as such. The last half of the album — "The Llama's Dream," "Consciousness," and "Resolution" — changes pace, with the guitars and drones becoming more nameable. Their entwined, woven structures of space and tonalities seem to signify the movement of the heart, not as it pulses, but as it breathes. These last three tracks are heartbreakingly beautiful; as each tonal phrase enters the picture and leaves, the body of the tonality gradually disappears into the larger aspect ratio of silence echoing eternally. Where Wendy's vocals grace the title track, they seem to be on the level just below it, all but indecipherable under the hypnotic guitars and polytonal drone effects. Perhaps it's a prayer, perhaps a blessing, perhaps a poem full of questions — it hardly matters. Consciousness ends appropriately with "Resolution." Where the album began with its single notes and trills amid the beautiful drones, strummed chords that are patterned on the drones take it out, playing over and over as sounds come and go through the center of the spacious mix. They stop just long enough for the shining drone to open its mouth without hindrance and then reappear to carry the listener back down into that sonic architecture without walls, and a universe free of anything but elementary particles that combine in manners and mysteries that grace us in each moment with their sounds. Consciousness is humble, moving, and brilliant. It's an achievement when a band creates an aesthetic, holds beauty as a goal in and of itself, and knows how endless the pursuit of it is.

Biography

Formed: 1991 in Dearborn, MI

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

A leading light in Michigan's space rock scene, Windy & Carl's atmospheric ambience was created by guitarist Carl Hultgren and bassist Windy Weber. Hultgren first began recording instrumental guitar drone pieces in 1992, when he self-released a cassette tape named Portal before teaming up with Weber. By the end of 1993, the duo had issued a single, "Watersong," on the musicians' own Blue Flea label. Once Dreamt appeared in 1995, as did a reissued version of Portal (complete with new material)....
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Consciousness, Windy & Carl
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