Winterlight: Hope Dies Last

A recording very much in the n5MD tradition of emotive electronica, Hope Dies Last is the debut album from Tim Ingham under the Winterlight name. The album is not entirely new, however, as a few of its twelve tracks are revisited versions of pieces that originally appeared in mid-2008 on the Distant Noise release Summer Interlude under Ingham's now retired Lightsway alias. The detail amounts to little more than a technicality, though, as the new collection registers as a fully unified set that blends the radiant shoegaze of Ulrich Schnauss and ethereal splendour of Robin Guthrie. In a representative track such as “Natvardsgästerna,” for example, the air may therefore be thick with Guthrie-styled reverb and ambient atmosphere, but it's also rich with pop melodies of the kind specialized in by Schnauss (there's even a smattering of Slowdive-like shoegaze mixed in to lend the material added intensity and heft). In “Between Joy,” which drinks from the same melodically rich well oft visited by Schnauss, guitars chime in the time-honoured tradition associated with Guthrie, and the rhythms pulsate with barely contained euphoria in a style that can't help but remind listeners of Schnauss's 2005 classic Far Away Trains Passing By.

As beatific as its title suggests, “A Sky Full of Clouds” blossoms rapidly into an uncommon and ultimately grandiose setting, a move helped along by the contributions of Becca Riedtmann, whose vocals boosts the track's ethereal qualities, and Mike Cadoo (aka Bitcrush), who fleshes out an already expansive sound with bass and drum programing. Elsewhere, “Plattenbuten:Palast” buries a laid-back, Schnauss-styled beat pattern under an immense cathedralesque cloud of reverb, while “I Still Hope” closes the album with eight minutes of blinding and beatless ambient. Winterlight's sound is epic, regardless of whether the track in question is shoegaze (“Your Wings Make You Fly”) or a starry-eyed lullaby (“Awake and Sleeping”), and it's also largely uplifting, as even unashamedly positive titles such as, again, “Your Wings Make You Fly” and “Suddenly Something Good” attest. On the downside, there are moments when a few genre cliches arise (such as the sound of waves crashing ashore during “Swept”), the album's a tad overlong at seventy-one minutes, and Hope Dies Last doesn't present an innovative sound so much as reinforce an existing one, but such aspects are easy to overlook when Ingham's well-crafted album offers so many pleasures, melodic and otherwise.

June 2011