[sic] Magazine

The Declining Winter – Really Early, Really Late

The Declining Winter have quietly been releasing music since 2007. Formed originally from the ashes of Leeds-based band Hood, main man Richard Adams has taken an ever-evolving musical collective and each album takes a musical starting point and extends and nurtures this. On this particular venture, Adams is joined by violinist Sarah Kemp (Brave Timbers), cellist Peter Hollo (Tangents), and guitarist Ben Holton (epic45), among many others.

Their musical palette is not dissimilar to, say, Talk Talk or Red House Painters in terms of taking a core idea, extending it, and seeing how it evolves. The band deals more with shaping “sound” and “fluidity” than attempting to work along the basis of well-trodden standard song structures. As songs develop, there’s a sense of wonder in watching layers being slowly added and progressively replaced by something else, none more so than during ‘Song Of The Moor Fire’.

The title track gets pretty close to that aforementioned Talk Talk template, particularly during that band’s latter phase with ‘Laughing Stock’. Notes performed ad-hoc over an almost-there backdrop of drums and the occasional bass. Breathy vocals and background whispers make for an earthy mixture alongside instrumentation which creates an evocative mood of walking home late at night in a city.

After multiple plays over several weeks (I was due to write this review several weeks ago, but felt that I didn’t yet know the album well enough to safely pen some thoughts… I’m still not sure I do, it’s both highly layered and nuanced – imagine being given a copy of ‘Laughing Stock’ and just a few hours to write something, it simply wouldn’t do it anything like the amount of justice it deserves), I’ve stopped obsessing about this album in terms of tracks and/or individual songs, or even attempting to break it down into smaller pieces. It’s an album which I now consider as a whole – in the same way that you wouldn’t read only only chapters 3, 7 and 9 of an Ian Rankin book, you also wouldn’t audition only selected tracks in isolation from this album either.

That we accept it as a whole work puts to bed the notion that a commercial track is parked away further along the album, as it just doesn’t work that way. Instead, we can press play and simply sit back, listening to how the music evolves and envelops us. Tracks often take time to weave their web, none more so than during ‘This Heart Beats Black’. The instrumentation is an absolute treat. Each note feels considered, even agonised over.

This isn’t an easy listen which pulls you in during its first audition, moreover it’s an album which invites you to listen a good many times before being able to reflect on what’s actually happening. Once you hit that point, it turns into the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – but covered in an invisibility cloak which only you are aware of.

This really is some album. Five years in the making, it deserves your attention.