Michael Manring & Kevin Kastning: In Winter
Bassist Michael Manring and guitarist Kevin Kastning are masters of their instruments. Naturally, they've also collaborated with many other artists throughout their careers; however, In Winter marks the first time they've worked together. The album collects twenty instrumental tracks that provide (as Manring describes) "avant-garde, improvised music with a mysterious, atmospheric quality." While this is certainly an accurate description, In Winter will nonetheless divide its audience—you'll either be ensconced in the delicate weavings and silences or be utterly bored by the repetitious and seemingly directionless constructions.
In Winter requires a lot of focused attention to appreciate; to most listeners, these tracks will sound majorly alike, which is a shame considering that diversity is always good, as well as the fact that the duo barely crafts anything to hold onto. Of course, they claim that each one of their instruments plays a specific role by providing unique timbres (and that may very well be true), but the majority of people hearing this album will not be able to detect any substantial differences in sound or technique amongst the tracks.
Although there is definitely a poetic, naturalistic approach to the channels the duo creates (the whole thing is very organic, sparse, and warm), there simply isn't really anything engaging here. That being said, a few moments do stand out upon close inspection. "Neither Nor Here" is effectively sorrowful and tasteful, with beautiful acoustic guitar passages, while "Never Said in Rhyme" ventures into subtle King Crimson territory near the end. Likewise, "A Distant Path Darkly" is vibrant and jazzy, with plenty of staccato showmanship, and the hollow quality of "Silence Shining Quietly Through" makes it a slightly haunting experience. Also, "In Movement Articulation" is wonderfully tense and frantic without being overbearing. Truthfully, this album succeeds best when it's energized (which isn't often).
In Winter is likely a polarizing record; you'll either be enveloped in the stringed puzzles or totally disconnected because its tranquil technique and limited resources lead to aggravatingly similar pieces. In other words, don't be surprised if you feel like the duo more or less recorded the same song twenty times with twenty different titles. There is a definite artistry here, though, which means that appraisal of the record is perhaps more subjective than of most records; you either "get it" or you don't, it seems. In my case, I totally see what the duo is doing here, but that doesn't stop me from becoming completely fed up with it very quickly.
1. Evening Against Sky
2. Neither Nor Here
3. Never Said in Rhyme
4. Solo in Mist
5. Though Unclosed, Speaking
6. Unseen Within
7. First Moment Remembrance
8. A Distant Path Darkly
9. Dissolving Floors of Memory
10. Internal Meanings and the Weight of Cathedrals
11. A Sense of Drift
12. Second Moment Remembrance
13. From a Farther Room
14. Perpetual in Stillness
15. Silence Shining Quietly Through
16. A Certain Slant of Light
17. In Movement Articulation
18. Third Moment Remembrance
19. On Retelling
20. Invisible True Stars at Daybreak
Added: December 20th 2012
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: More Information
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