Winter Villains–February (Barely Legal)

Winter Villains–February (Barely Legal)

May 6th will see the arrival of ‘February’ , the debut album from the Wales-based chamber pop ensemble Winter Villains on the Barely Legal imprint. Inspired by a trip to Dusseldorf and conceived in the Cardiff flat shared by band members Josef Prygodzicz and Faye Gibson, their early demos sought to mirror, in the words of Prygodzicz, ‘the fragile beauty of the winter season’, and in doing so earned the fledgling band considerable attention and acclaim from figures such as the BBC’s Jen Long.

With the release of ‘February’, Winter Villains fully justify the initial excitement which enveloped them. This is a stunning album, staying true to Prygodzicz’s original intention of capturing the essence of winter – “sparse, atmospheric and dark, yet somehow uplifting.” This is exactly how the album plays out, as the band (now far removed from its original duo and featuring six members) layer exquisite vocal harmonies over lush, intricate and refreshingly experimental instrumentation. The band are also aided by some sterling production work from both Charlie Francis (Turin Brakes) and from Mandy Parnell (Sigur Ros), and though their previous production work may gave you a brief inkling of what to expect, ‘February’ is outstanding in its own uniqueness.

The albums’ seven longer tracks are broken up by brief, instrumental pieces which, far from being irrelevant or an annoying aside, add much to the ambience of the album, whether it’s the glacial percussion of ‘Icicles Have Formed From Our Teardrops’ or the storm that howls beneath the piano and violin of ‘Dead Leaves Cover Up Our Paths’. But it’s on the longer tracks where the bands’ talents are best showcased, both musically and vocally. There’s a sense of adventurousness about Winter Villains, who accompany their traditional instruments with more unusual sounds. Album standout ‘Thorns’ begins minimally with just piano and vocals but builds toward a majestic conclusion encompassing strings and xylophones, church bells ring out in ‘Holes In Our Pictures’, and the band adds whistling to their oeuvre in ‘Patterns.’ Above this orchestration, the band’s almost choral-like harmonies soar. Bringing a sense of warmth to the sometimes stark proceedings, they complement the ethereal tone of the album.

This is an album that has all the necessary components to captivate upon first listen, but the true intricacy and beauty of ‘February’ is best revealed after repeated plays. With such an assured debut album, Winter Villains are commendably fearless in pursuing their own artistic vision and hopefully will attain the plaudits that this wonderful album so richly deserves. 8.4/10

Andy McCabe

Previous post
U. M. O. ANNOUNCE NOVEMBER TOUR
Next post
Alkaline Trio ‘Agony and Irony’ 2XLP (Deluxe Edition) To Be Released June 4
Back
SHARE

Winter Villains–February (Barely Legal)