The Winks/Tights: s/t
Drip Audio

The Winks and Tights' dual full-length essentially conjoins two EPs but there's a legitimate reason for presenting their material this way: Todd Macdonald and Tyr Jami are members of both groups, even if they're markedly different in style—The Winks a loose-limbed experimental-folk quartet and Tights an electroacoustic soundscaping trio. Though both collections of songs include a fair share of interesting moments and the groups' collective stab at merging conventional acoustic sounds with experimental structures and electronic treatments is admirable, their songs aren't wholly successful either.

Instrumentally, The Winks' kitchen-sink sound is reasonably distinctive, with Macdonald's bright mandolin picking, Jami's deep cello bowing, and Tim Sars' woodwinds ably complemented by Paul Patko's drumming; vocally, the sound is much more ragged—by design, presumably—with Macdonald's free-ranging, somewhat winsome delivery often alternating with Jami's child-like voice; unfortunately, while his is tolerable enough, her's is less so, and is especially cringe-inducing on “Castle in the Clouds,” “Boxes,” and “From Memory”; put bluntly, the mike would be better pointed towards her robust cello playing than her mouth. Though it's not terribly distinguished in itself, “A Drunk Loves the Sound of his Own Voice,” a brief instrumental of skuzzy lurch, appeals for offering respite from her vocalizing.

Thankfully the singing takes a back seat on the Tights' improvs (the exception “B Major” which spotlights soft musings amidst scarred and snuffling electronic emissions). Compared to The Winks, Tight's experimental settings are less song structures than organic soundscapes, though that shouldn't surprise given the involvement of laptop musician Andy Dixon (aka Secret Mommy) who contributes live processing to the group's sound. While stylistically different than The Winks, Tights retains a similarly loose, almost home-made feel in its pieces, such that the cello sawing and mandolin plucks in “Whitethroat Babies,” for example, sound as if they were recorded in someone's living room. A blur of grime coats the cello scrapings and electronic noise in “Deadly Enemies/Feathered Friends” while the considerably more placid “Swallow Small Bones” merges burrowing scurries of mandolin picking with gentle string playing and skuzzy electronics. In this context, Jami's cello work is a bright spot; her melancholy lines lend distinction to the closer “Prey By Surprise” (until, that is, they disappear under a barrage of electronic noise). On the whole, though, the material, specifically the Oval retreads, sometimes sounds about five years too late; Tights' six pieces would impress more had the style not been so exhaustively explored by others already.

October 2005