Winter Ambient Works






Wounds is the Ambient-focused project of one otherwise anonymous musician from Poland, and Winter Ambient Works is his six-track mini album which I deem a good addition to the tradition of winterly Ambient works. Originally available in a limited edition of 50 copies released on Assonance Records in March 2010, this work is now available for free at Wounds' Bandcamp page. As is the case with every Ambient album that has the season integrated in its title already, the curiosity only grows, at least that is how I perceive it: does the artist go for a harsh and frosty soundscape? Does he depict the incidents in a solemn way? Are there Glitch ornaments attached which boost the coldness in adjacency to warmer synth pads? Winter Ambient Works is a serious work. It does not deliver an overly dreamy depiction of this season. Only rarely are there glistening vesicles attached. Otherwise, the intrinsic arrangements comprise of wind gusts, synth pad melodies and deep bass drones, all of them being ingredients that are at times found in thick and densely layered Drone albums. In Winter Ambient Works, Wounds ships carefully around both glorifying and crestfallen formulae. There are indeed two proper Drone tracks to be found, but again, they are not as heavy, gloomy or icy as the hibernal motif suggests. This work is nevertheless decidedly grave with no catchy Pop riffs, but vestigial melodies are in here aplenty. Read more about the various strengths and shortcomings of this mini album below.


Idle launches the album in a strangely majestic but also pompously danger-evoking way: solemn piano chords conflate with cacophonous brazen streams and dubby bass drones. The deep piano backing tercets not only add plasticity and depth to the mix, they also feel like crushing hammers. The mood is hard to describe, my above depiction possibly leads you to think of this as a composition chock-full of uneasiness, but the slight hall effects and the generous amount of decay and reverberation link to a bigger scope. A great opener, surprisingly fresh and less about electronics than the meek notion of a piano arrangement. Losing Focus changes the soundscape immediately by unleashing a frosty storm which is soon enhanced with coruscating synth glaciers, crystalline sparkles and an abyssal counterpoint in the form of belly-massaging drones. The wide range of plinking particles and a deep base frame make this a strangely wondrous take which opens up further in the middle when arpeggiated dusky synth stabs and a shifting four-note snowflake melody are temporarily bit-crushed to a point where the decisive moiré of overdriven static noise is destroying the beauty. The final phase of the track finds the melody intact and unaltered next to the acidic rotor synth stabs. Up next is Under The Ice, a particularly contemplative and cavernous anthem. A gloomy mellowness is injected in the form of ecclesial synth pads, their reverb implies a wide cavity. And that is basically the whole secret of the arrangement. The slightest airflows of distant wind gusts manage to enter the scenery at certain points, but neither do they distract from the endemic cave-like setting, nor are they particularly strong. Under The Ice is a gorgeous piece of music akin to the New Age genre, but way too minimal – in a positive way – to be mixed up with the ethereal wraithlike works.


The poetically titled Dance Of The Snowflakes succeeds with a positive and pristine aura thanks to its blue-tinted but embracing bell-resembling synth river to which a crackling mist and a rhythmical echo-heavy metallic snare drum are added. Electric guitar-like drones embody power and strength, and while they seem to forcefully pull the focus of the limelight into their reach, they are rather augmenting the fragile beauty of the snowflakes. However, there is a distinct shortcoming of this piece, and that is the downwards spiraling four-note melody that builds the nexus of this track. It is overly easy and not all too catchy. The arrangement as a whole is still good due to its great textures and postprocessing effects that camouflage the nakedness of it. Echoes Of The Past, on the other hand, is based on similarly but more haunting four-note tone sequences which are placed in-between windy turbulences, silkened frizzles of static noise and mountain-like bass drones which at times shift into minor territories. Despite its short duration of under three minutes, the outro phase is particularly interesting, as it meshes directly with the final untitled track: both the lead melody and the wind gusts wane, leaving anything but a gorgeously transcendental temple gong-resembling synth stream whose layer-related density decreases constantly, allowing the listener to feast on this apotheosis. It is really just a monotonous gong, but its surface is lachrymose and iridescent, the ensuing aura wonderfully arcane.


Winter Ambient Works is a nice little album that comprises of a coherent soundscape. As its title suggests, the six tracks are predominantly cold, with no perceptible source of thermal heat. It is a melody-focused Ambient album which is equally fond of rich layers. Despite this richness and wealth, none of the tracks feels overly saturated, as there is in fact a kind of minimal purity attached. This minimalism is often lessened by storms and blizzards, but when they are not actively wafting, the echoey traits of the tones becomes apparent. I like the Drone tracks of the album best: the majestically cavernous New Age feeling of Under The Ice and the untitled outro with its enigmatic aura and the slow fade-out phase of its gong are splendid examples of winterly tracks. But Wounds allows himself to create rougher phases, for example in the overdriven noise scenery in Losing Focus. The whimsical melodies of the album can be considered its only real flaw. The Polish artist does not necessarily need to come up with a convoluted jazzy eclecticism, but I would have loved mellower melodies with a lesser attack rate. A generous amount of blurriness would have boosted the dreaminess and whitewashed the panorama. Winter Ambient Works is a mini album that is still highly suitable for the coldest of all seasons. It is less saccharine than many other related works, less transfiguring or poeticizing, and this is Wounds' biggest strength as a composer, for he targets listeners who want to experience harsher, more lifelike panoramas without belittling notions. In this regard, the bright front artwork is a strictly counteracting choice, but the music itself does not care for this determining parameter, and the listener should not either.




Ambient Review 164: Wounds – Winter Ambient Works (2010). Originally published on Dec. 26, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.