Under circumstances too depressing to mention, I lost all trace of belief in a benign force behind the universe. That's why I cringed on first contact with We The Wintering Tree
, which is dedicated, "with all its imperfections", to, erm, God. It was fortunate to find, despite all my preconceptions, a young quintet that articulates a refreshing update on a probably worn-out genre -- namely guitar based post-rock.
The hushed, somnambulant dynamics of bands like Slint and Rachel's certainly come to mind when you first confront these carefully crafted webs of dreamy arpeggios and melancholy chord progressions -- which makes perfect sense, as Foxhole come from Kentucky, too. Mostly instrumental -- the infrequent vocals are used as texture, in an unintelligible cloud of mashed syllables and whispery sibilants -- We the Wintering Tree's ten songs gravitate towards the gentle, conjuring images of nostalgia and melancholy through a clean, brittle guitar sound and spacious ambiance, slowly unfolding through static repetition. Unless they step on those distortion boxes, of course, generating Mogwai-like vortexes of whirling fury that send ripples of electricity all over the stereo image (the math-rock convolutions of "The End of Dying" and "Dead Rimes" serve as eloquent examples), while unleashing thunderous amounts of drum grandiosity. The addition of warm trumpets and subtle bells -- see the beautiful "At Right Angles", or "Lamentation", the album's most accomplished track -- helps build a fuller, more complex sound. There is a solemn, introspective beauty to these songs, a quality that probably stems from the fact that the band wrote and recorded the album in the sanctuary of Westminster Bible Church, a move reminiscent of such like-minded efforts as Bark Psychosis's immortal "Scum" single or Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden. The extended structures of songs like "Spectacle" share with these distinguished precedents a sense of ritualistic, ghostly ethereality.
Going back to the beginning of this review and the religious nature guiding the band's creative impulse: this is no corny, sing-along, feel-good pseudo-inspirational rock. It's an earnest piece of music that reminds us of the strong spiritual leanings and connections behind sound-making. Definitely the kind of stuff you'll never see advertised on televangelists' infomercials.