Windy & Carl: We Will Always Be

There's something comforting about the appearance of a new recording from husband-and-wife duo Carl Hultgren and Windy Weber, with We Will Always Be their first in more than three years. And the reason that it is comforting isn't simply for musical reasons—though that's certainly a major part of it—it's also that their re-emergence signifies stability amidst rapid change. The commitment the two bring to their music and each other exudes hope in contrast to whatever turmoil seems to be rampant elsewhere; put simply, it's reassuring to be reminded that some things do last. The two are like seasoned pros who've long left behind any pressure to be anything but themselves and refined their approach to a point where it's as natural as breathing. Not only do the pair eschew trendiness (We Will Always Be ain't footwork or dubstep, in other words), they've pared their music down to an even more essential core on We Will Always Be, the duo's first since the release of their fourth kranky album Songs for the Broken Hearted.

Strip away the background churn of fuzzy noise textures and “For Rosa” would slot itself snugly into a vocal folk tradition that extends back half a century. Weber's soft voice elsewhere acts as a more atmospheric element, as part of the resonant textural flow chiming through “Remember,” for instance, where iridescent guitar swirls drift like cloud masses floating above while bass tones provide solid ties to the earth below. A similar approach emerges during “Nature of Memory” when undulating waves of guitars are accompanied by a grounding bass presence and the ghostly murmur of Weber's speaking voice. Beats and percussion are absent on the album, with the duo largely content to let their layers of heavily treated guitars do the talking (electric piano and organ also are heard on “The Smell of Old Books” and “Fainting in the Presence of the Lord,” respectively).

Though there are eight indexed tracks, the sixty-eight-minute set has been designed to flow uninterruptedly in a way that enhances its hypnotic effect. Strengthening that impression is the fact that much of the album is comprised of shimmering moodscapes perfectly capable of inducing reverie. That's especially true in the case of the two longest settings, “Looking Glass,” a twelve-minute swarm that plays like a never-ending rainshower of crystalline guitar textures and bass shudder, and “Fainting in the Presence of the Lord,” which caps the release with an expertly controlled, nineteen-minute slab of dronescaping that manages to be both majestic and raw.

February 2012