WAKING UP SLOWLY
Windy & Carl open new levels of consciousness.
Gentle sirens draw you forward as refreshing miniwaves crash at your feet and scrunched toes dig shallow pools into muddy sand. Temptation hits first, then trepidation as you move rhythmically forward, backward.
You’ve gone out too far. The undercurrent takes over, voices turn violent, a whirlpool thrashes you about, pulling you under. Silence.
Minutes moving like hours later, you surface, gasping, physically drained and invigorated, floating on your back, face to the sun, toward shore.
Two years later, you go back outside. As the sun rises, you cautiously collect your thoughts between dream and consciousness, trembling at the revelations. Slowly but surely, you’ve recovered your balance and everything makes sense.
For Dearborn’s sound-escape darlings, Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren, more than two years separate two releases on Chicago’s Kranky Records. Depths, their first for the prestigious, albeit itsy-bitsy, label (which also releases the work of Labradford, Low and Godspeed You Black Emperor) has an urgency to it, not to mention an overall submerged feeling. And it marks a more difficult time in their lives. With Consciousness (released March 19), the duo’s latest delving into dreamy textured sound, they’re as busy as ever, but the atmosphere captured on disc is remarkably lighter.
“I think the songs started coming together at the beginning of a period of time that’s been easier for us to get through,” Weber relates one relaxed afternoon at the couple’s store, Stormy Records, which they recently relocated to 22079 Michigan Ave. in Dearborn.
“There’s been less stress and more of an understanding between the two of us. Our relationship has gotten better. We’ve been together for forever, but it seems like these songs have come from a time period where our relationship was better and more things in life made sense.”
The two (who started playing together in late 1992) took their time in making Consciousness, listening to the songs over and over, trying to find the perfect titles to match the moods created and making sure everything fit.
“Windy drove around with the tape of all the instrumental songs for six or seven months, just listening to them all,” Hultgren elaborates.
And with time, something close to enlightenment exhaled. Each song — “The Sun,” “Balance (Trembling),” “Elevation,” “The Llama’s Dream,” “Consciousness” and “Resolution” — has a distinct ambience. In the separate tracks, you can feel, see, touch, taste and hear these concepts unfold, like the repetitive, patterned, spacious rhythms of a Jackson Pollock painting, or like waiting on the line for a possible new friend to pick up, clearing your throat, testing out greetings, hello, hi, hey.
Weber takes most of the bass and singing duties, along with some keyboard work. Hultgren plays guitar and keyboards. What really sets their sound apart, however, is Hultgren’s mixing process, which develops the drones and buzzes, the distortion and layers of texture and effects. The two have a system of writing during the recording process, so as not to miss beautiful surprises.
“I don’t usually have thoughts about what I want to write. I just sit down and find sounds that I like and then work with those,” Windy explains. “Sometimes we’re lucky enough that when we start playing, it just sounds good to start with. It just comes out the way we would hope it would be. There isn’t any preplanning involved.”
This style begins to explain why live Windy & Carl performances are rare.
“We don’t really play around here that often,” Hultgren admits. “Just because there aren’t a lot of nice spaces that are easy for us to play in, outside of bars, which aren’t really the best environment for our kind of music.”
While on tour, the two have performed everywhere from big, beautiful old movie theaters with balconies and large wooden stages to a small space that was going to be torn down the following week.
“We played in a little dive in Hamburg, Germany, that had broken glass all over the place,” Hultgren says. “The stage was assembled out of fire doors on milk crates. We didn’t even get to play on the stage. The main band had all their gear that took up the whole stage area so we were, literally, playing amongst the crowd. We were standing in the crowd. People were standing all around us and no one could tell who was playing. That was a pretty bad show.”
But for the most part, things are looking good. The new album’s out, there’s a tour planned for July and Windy & Carl are putting out a three-CD set of all their singles, compilation songs and some live and unreleased songs on their own label, Blue Flea.
And then of course, there’s the music.
“We play music because we really love music,” Weber sighs. “It has been an incredible part of our lives for as long as we can remember. It’s almost like we’re driven to play. We love it so much that we have to create it.
“I’m not very good at describing what we do and I don’t know if I can describe very well how it feels to do what we do, but I really enjoy it. When we play, it’s a nice break from everything else. Just a lot of sound and it’s really pretty and I’m happy. I like to play with Carl so I can hear him play.”
“And the more singing I can get Windy to do, the better,” Hultgren adds with a smile.