Windy & Carl: Songs for the Broken Hearted

As sonically direct as its Songs for the Broken Hearted title, Windy & Carl's fourth album for kranky is thematically a deep meditation on love in all of its emotional shadings: bliss, anger, trust, intimacy, heartbreak, devotion, distance, and so on. That directness is intimated by song titles—“Btwn You + Me,” “My Love,” “Forever,” “When We Were”—that similarly reference the highs and lows that any romantic union invariably experiences; certainly the duo, together for nineteen years, has weathered its fair share of storms. One struggles at times to decipher Windy's words when her singing is an ethereal hush and when the songs are covered in thick blankets of reverb, but no doubt the lyrics reference pain and joy in equal measure in ten instrumental and vocal pieces— “incantations” perhaps the better word—that coalesce into an uninterrupted, seventy-minute dreamscape.

After the gentle opener “Btwn You + Me,” where Windy's voice whispers in your ear while a warm drone shimmers, “La Douleur” (“The War,” named after the Marguerite Duras book) spreads its mighty wings for a quietly immolating thirteen minutes. Elsewhere on the instrumental front, “Rhodes” churns like an immense cloud mass within which traces of keyboards, guitars, and sometimes the murmur of voices can be glimpsed while the slow-burning “When We Were” transports the listener into a transcendent zone dominated by celestial guitar masses. The haze that cloaks “The Same Moon and Stars” can't hide the melancholy that flows from its beatific core. If broached on purely sonic terms, Songs for the Broken Hearted holds up as a satisfying and immersive listening experience, but the thematic dimension not only unifies the work but infuses it with a timeless quality and enhances its ability to universally connect. Windy & Carl is one of kranky's longest-standing artists but this latest release shows no sign of obsolescence. Despite the focus on a romantic theme that carries with it a bleak underside, the group sounds as artistically vital and strong as it ever has.

November 2008