Every once in a while you come across a band where it really is all in the name. The post-rock project, Winter and the Waves, is one of those bands: the name conveys a soundscape of stark and sterile-white beaches, where the crashing waves paint the frozen rocks with one sheer layer of ice after another.
The self-titled EP Winter and the Waves is very much straightforward post-rock, and very much the product of a one-man operation. Sole member Kyle Wesley piles loop upon loop and polished layer after layer, ultimately building miniature epics that vary between eerie and triumphant.
While the melodic and harmonious nature of the tracks could draw apt comparisons to a litany of post-rock bands—from Mogwai to Godspeed You Black Emperor—Wesley deviates from some of genre standards. He doesn't take forever to build the tracks to crescendo, and the tracks themselves aren't as long as meandering as many post-rock bands. There's also a “cleanness” to the music—perhaps an aspect of self-recording and pouring over every element, perhaps just what he's going for. Either way, it's nice to be able to pick all of the individual instruments and elements out of the line-up, although it comes at the expense of the music feeling like it's evolving naturally.
Tightly constructed orchestration shines on the first track, “Hello Yesterday,” the EP's longest and most nuanced. The song builds with keys and guitar before handclaps and a fluttering guitar part (akin almost to very early era U2) comes in alongside a bass line that could have been taken from a Final Fantasy video game soundtrack.
The second and third tracks are all about the guitar resonance and harmonics. Track two plays out like a dystopian waltz with ominous and slow burning bass notes lending a creepiness similar to the Virgin Suicides Soundtrack by Air—before the song falls into an overdrive guitar march to the end. The third track is pretty and, while it doesn't really go anywhere, it showcases cool reverb effects that make the guitar chords sound almost like an organ.
At the end of the day, it's a super cool instrumental EP, painstakingly crafted in a Chicago apartment. The music is good, but the recording, mastering and production process is what makes for a nuanced wall of sound where you can pick out and appreciate the various elements.
My only gripe is that the album is so short! I'd love to hear a few more tracks and to be able to better nail down just what Wesley is going for with Winter and the Waves. I'd highly recommend this to any fans of post-rock or ambient guitar music.
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