Monday, May 23, 2011

Hope Dies Last - Winterlight

Hope Dies Last

n5MD Records.

SCQ Rating: 72%

n5MD enthusiasts have had their eye on Tim Ingham, aka Winterlight, for quite some time. Having first promised great things with Summer Interlude (under the name Lightsway and for the always uncertain Distant Noise Records) and a handful of remixes for n5MD artists, Ingham caught Skeleton Crew Quarterly’s attention last year when he reworked ‘Every Sunday’ for Bitcrush’s excellent remix album From Arcs To Embers. A slow-building mood-piece of understated synth-work, ‘Every Sunday’ proved that Winterlight not only deserved a concrete place in the n5MD universe, but also possessed an impressive working relationship with Bitcrush’s Mike Cadoo.

The two artists reconvene for Hope Dies Last, Winterlight’s n5MD debut, with Cadoo offering some instrumental backing to Ingham’s shimmering electronic-shoegaze fusions. Just as the ominous haze of ‘A Sky Full of Clouds’ peaks, Ingham’s delicate keys cut through like sunrays that reveal how much space Hopes Dies Last occupies. The blackness of its cover-art may suggest a nihilistic emptiness but that couldn’t be further from the truth; if anything, that darkness merely suggests the emotional chasm Hope Dies Last represents, weightless and measureless. Over the following tracks, Winterlight leaps behind merrily upbeat shoegaze anthems (‘Between Joy’, ‘Nattvardsgasterna’) and still-life ambient meditations (‘Awake and Asleep’). The former group of songs feels indebted to Ulrich Schnauss, who first married the blurred rock of Ride and Slowdive to electronic compositions, but Winterlight takes these adrenaline rushes in a starry-eyed and liberated direction. Surprisingly, it’s the latter group of songs, accompanied by head-nod approved break-beats and romanticized synths, which come off as less syrupy. The washes of ambience on ‘Plattenbauten: Palast’ tend to compliment any given mood whereas ‘Line Of Flight’ gravitates toward trip-hop with an urbane groove perfect for night driving.

Despite such songwriting variety, Hope Dies Last exists on a very limited sonic palette and begins to stretch longer than its seventy-minute run-time already demands. Which songs would I vote off in the defense of a more digestible album? Making those choices would admittedly be difficult but only because several tracks cover the same emotional territory with similar results. There’s a palpable sense of déjà vu on Hope Dies Last and while it’s still a worthy full-length debut, a reduced tracklisting would’ve given more oomph to its many dramatic turns.

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