March 2017 CD of the Month: Winterlight

Winterlight – The Longest Sleep Through the Darkest Days Echoes March CD of the Month

by John Diliberto 2/26/2018

When you say a name like Winterlight, you can’t help think of melancholy and as we slowly move toward the exit of this winter season, I can’t think of a better album for your seasonal soundtrack than Winterlight’s second CD, The Longest Sleep Through the Darkest Days.

It’s been nearly seven years since Winterlight’s last album, Hope Dies Last. That was an Echoes CD of the Month in the summer of 2011. With  The Longest Sleep Through the Darkest Days, many of Winterlight’s signature sonics remain. You can still hear the influences of shoegaze bands like The Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. He used to have a lot of Ulrich Schnauss in his sound as well, but he’s shrugged off that inspiration a bit.

UK guitarist Tim Ingham is Winterlight along with his daughter, Isabel, playing bass. He took the name from the Ingmar Bergman film, Winter Light, a story about loss of faith. But despite that, his debut album, Hope Dies Last, was an album of affirmation. The Longest Sleep Through the Darkest Days is a darker album, and hope sometimes seems to be a flicker.

The opening tracks, “Calm Then a Storm” picks up from the fading echoes of Hope Dies Last, with pensive keyboard arpeggio swathed in reverb, a surging organ chord maintaining a pad while ringing guitar lines move in and out. Like all of his music, it’s about the processing. Ingham’s guitar lines may be simple, but the effects are creating overtones and interrelationships that you wouldn’t find in an organic sound. A simple note can arc out like a free-wheeling melody; a chord can become an electro-symphonic expanse. “Risen Again” is just a couple of simple chords but the pieces surges forward like a cruise ship parting the electronic waters though the power of his processing.

The darker tone to this album turns up in titles like “I Can’t Start Being Happy for Feeling Sad.” It’s a beautiful track that sheds overtones like rosin flying off a violin bow. Winterlight operates in the cathedrals of sound and “Hinterland” would be perfect in that gothic setting with swirls of vocal-like choirs that emerge as if echoing off the arches and marble of these sacred spaces. As drums and reverbed guitar ease in it’s as if Winterlight is taking us from some ancient spiritual past into a different spiritual future creating a transition between worlds.

But there are also the kind of affirmational tracks that Winterlight does so well. “Risen Again” is almost pastoral in its long opening sequence before reaching a crescendo of longing, ringing guitars.

The album ends with a 12-minute-long drift called “The Longest Sleep,” with hints of keyboard melody, dripping liquid pulses and roiling textures. It’s almost a drone zone track but toward the end, Ingham brings in the rhythm and the music ascends into ear-ringing intensity. There is also a 27-minute version of this track available as a separate download.

Winterlight is a music of the interior. Superficially, The Longest Sleep Through the Darkest Days could be the landscapes of winter, those silent white panoramas, denuded trees and grey skies. But it works even better at creating those interior spaces, those expanses of contemplation and imagination. It’s the Echoes March CD of the Month.

Read a review of Winterlight’s first album,  Hope Dies Last


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