Painted Girl - Familiar Trees of the North West
Familiar Trees of the North West
May 22, 2022
His cloven hoof begins with a tragic piano line played into a reverbed space. Instantly, it feels as though the melody is a soundtrack to some inevitable demise for the listener. Some harbinger of death riding a galloping horse would compliment the solo lament fairly perfectly. w i n t e r q u i l t wastes no time injecting that characteristic sense of macabre into O’discordia. From there, a verbose bass and drum pairing force their way in. The pianist continues their solemn tune as the kick and bass weave in and out of one another in an intense duet. There is less of an otherworldly dread, like that on the artist’s last official outing H Y M N. The gothic feeling present here feels lodged in our own world, and harks back to a bygone era with its cautioning tone and ghastly atmosphere. The song moves from a waltzing tempo to a more pacy refrain, the bass leading the charge as unnatural synth sounds clamber alongside it. w i n t e r q u i l t’s sense of composition is fully apparent; even at around 4 minutes in we find ourselves falling through an endless darkness, the dramatic nature of the scene completely owing to the artist’s almost baroque style. Every little trill and bass note jerking upwards in pitch augments the narrative, making everything that little darker, that little more dramatic. Here we welcome Naut of UK-based metal band Necronautical. The initial scream fizzles against the surface of the instrumental, as the vocalist begins to fire carcinogenic phrases over the unpredictable instrumentation. The voice switches from trawling, horrible drone to fiery, high-pitched refrains. We are reminded of w i n t e r q u i l t’s penchant for a constant dynamic feeling. It has been apparent before, but has never felt this eagerly spelled out. The leaning towards metal timings and time signatures allows for anything to happen, the bombastic nature of the vocals and bass add to this uncertainty. So that when the devastating piano line withers endlessly behind the uncontrollable power of everything else, one recognises it as an incredibly unique sound. As Naut’s voice erupts with one last scream, it almost evaporates away like the last shriek of some villain frozen in place by the powers of good. The lamenting piano reprises its heartbreaking refrain once again.
I’m thinking of you utilises the touching texture and sound of strings to play out an almost funereal tune. The listener can hear w i n t e r q u i l t toying with that beautiful blending of electronic and organic sounds. Heartfelt tones are yanked upwards by forced automation. These moments can often make for the most interesting on the 4-track EP as the scary, oftentimes sad atmosphere that the artist paints is revealed to be a mere hologram, a ghost. Another pretty piano riff conjures images of a lavish ballroom, spinning slowly. A deep, affected voice surfaces with distant screams wisping their way around like smoke. We come to a clearing in the instrumentation and the vocal hook is introduced. Sung by some horrible, scorned beast forced into the shadows. The voice shifts in pitch in an inhuman way, but the feeling behind its delivery illustrates a love and affection. w i n t e r q u i l t pits our senses against each other, drawn in by the voice but wary of its demented nature. As w i n t e r q u i l t continues to utilise eerie instrumentation, its impossible not to picture harrowingly dark and treacherous landscapes. Decaying ruins glimpsed through skeletal trees, great inhuman beasts appearing through the clearing that end up just as shadows cast against a deceitful path. The spectral choirs that sing out into the cold dusk halfway through sounding like the wind whistling past us as we journey further into our own demise. Our next guest emerges from the thicket as a wobbling halloween-y lead sprays an eerie green light over everything. Sage Hardware‘s voice aches with pain and heartbreak. So much so that the instrumentation sounds like it reels at the artist’s entrance, kick drums hammer frantically and fills appear piled on top of each other in a cacophony like someone falling down an endless set of stairs. Sage Hardware confirms our feelings of discomfort and the presence of some gothic danger, ‘there’s something in the air’. Something other than the haunting choirs that drift toward us. The two artists go all out for the finale, colliding with the icy sparsity that has built up. w i n t e r q u i l t’s instrumentation explodes into a rage of percussion, Sage’s rage causes their voice to skip and glitch, but in the moments where it is let loose, we hear this fantastic burning horror unveiled.
The titular track starts much like the ones before it. w i n t e r q u i l t welcomes us into a dusty old hall with a piano melody. Beautiful and graceful in its melody, but overtly dark and daunting. Full of wonderful glissando notes, a flurry of percussion and synthetic guitar take the melody from there. The guitar sound has that resonant twang of a harpsichord, sending short sharp notes into the fray of drumwork. It bends and climbs upwards suddenly and intensely, making for an incredibly energy-sapping experience. Ghostly voices ebb toward the listener in echoing waves, seeming to catch on the force of the instrumentation and catapulted toward us. The song builds to a climax and we are met with a sudden quiet. All that fills it is a shapeshifting, violin-like riff that snakes through muffled undergrowth. With a spatter of tom and snare, we welcome our third guest: Fire-Toolz. The ferocity that Fire-Toolz brings to the first few notes cause their voice to duck in and out of audibility. A cacophony of screams fire toward the listener, the bass again displaying that penchant for a sporadic and dubious dynamic. The harpsichord sound now spirals out of control, at some points sounding like the lead synth in some 8-bit game as it sprints from low to piercing high notes. Bass notes swerve out of place randomly, bending the shape of the low end of the track. There are repeated sounds and melodies, but it is impossible to follow one as w i n t e r q u i l t hits us with a barrage of different elements. Cold piano sees us over an uncertain break in intensity. Voices gliding from one side of the mix to the other. Descending notes bring us back into the labyrinthine instrumentation as Fire-Toolz hisses lyrics from deep in some hidden chasm. The mood changes fairly swiftly, as the bass and percussion launch into some pacy 80s-inspired exchange. Voices float up from caverns that run deep underneath us, splaying themselves above us in the air before sinking back to their resting place. w i n t e r q u i l t cloaks a vocal sample in more deeply affected pitch shifting. The artist writhes and squirms from one feeling and speed to the next, desperate to shake the listener loose and leave them in an eternal solitude. The conclusive vocal sample almost makes it feel like we’re in some strange gothic musical, or as if some sick and twisted character in this dark tale is dancing and taunting us deep within the maze of trapdoors and passages. w i n t e r q u i l t’s confidence in including a vocal like this and the almost comedically frantic harpsichord sound convey a playfulness. But one can’t ignore the unilluminated meandering that the artist forces upon the listener, the intentions are very much to create a dingy and eerie atmosphere.
w i n t e r q u i l t concludes the EP with a tribute/reworking of the infamous t e l e p a t h’s song 柔らかい唇 . The pathos of things begins with the original’s misty instrumentation, swelling and buffeting with the artist’s recognisable style. From here w i n t e r q u i l t submerges the track, diving with it into the underworld of O’discordia. That tireless bass and percussive force burst forward. China cymbals spray out in quick succession, the kick and snare catapult outwards in a rapid salvo of sound. Great gossamer towers of euphoria melt and flow in the background of the track, as a glassy lead plays through a dramatic sequence. w i n t e r q u i l t does an incredible job at unveiling the dormant emotion hidden in t e l e p a t h’s song. Listening to the slushwave master is more often than not a docile experience, waves of sound buffeting over you. But in the initial quick-fire blast, we can hear all the longing and desperation thats bottled up in the original track. After a short silence where the beautiful lead melody drifts around, we launch back into another pacy section including an impossibly agile 1/16 rhythm on the hi hat. There’s a strange crossroads that appears as a coalescence of different styles takes place. The euphoric richness of t e l e p a t h, the jagged skeletal drum sequencing of w i n t e r q u i l t and the twinkling lead riff sounding like some metal-prog hybrid. The artist continues to let climax after climax burst, as the track pushes deftly onward with all the emotion and power of a passionate live performance. In the last minute or so, we are welcomed back to the loving embrace of the original. The experience is augmented, and the listener might almost swear they can hear the din of pain and despair that w i n t e r q u i l t’s iteration unveiled in the sleepy tumult of the ambient noise.
w i n t e r q u i l t seems to untether those leanings that were displayed in H Y M N on this new release. Enlisting the help of a few fantastic artists, all of that dread and pain and emotive poignance brim up to the forefront on O’discordia. The addition of screamed vocals in places seems to give w i n t e r q u i l t the confidence to let their compositional brilliance spring forth. The 4-track EP is a tremendously unique journey, and feels like a huge leap for the artist on this journey of refining a sound all of their own.