September 06, 2010

Homba - Wild Dogs In Winter

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Wild Dogs In Winter's debut, Homba, plays as if recorded in a most secluded place; maybe a cave snowed in during the slowest part of winter where the only thing to be heard apart from the lonely drone of the instruments is the distant sound of wind wailing in the frozen world outside. The echoes of reverbed guitar gently rattle the cave's icy walls. The steady fuzz of the synthesizers absorbs a soft dripping sound in the corner. Cautiously, the vocals enter. Is anyone listening?

It’s quite impressive for British ambient group, Wild Dogs In Winter, to have created such an empty, yet emotional atmosphere on just their debut album, their only release aside from a self-titled 3-track EP. There are many dark works in post-rock and ambient music, but Homba stirs up some truly depressing and hopeless feelings. In a way, it has a similar feel to Sigur Rós’ emotionally wrenching ( ) with numbers that drone on sorrowfully through seemingly repetitive patterns, guided only by that lone, remorseful voice. Homba apparently has little intention aside from completely draining you of all hope and positivity.

But unlike Sigur Rós on ( ), the vocalist of Wild Wolves In Winter does not sing unintelligibly. Although vocals are rarely used for more than another instrumental layer in this style of music, Homba has easily understandable lyrics. And somehow this vocal style fits the album very well aesthetically in addition to providing another level of emotional outreach. It reminds me of British post-rockers, iLiKETRAiNS, who also pull off vocals in this fashion just as well. Only in an interlude track, “A Hu Li”, is this balance strangely broken when a brief M83-esque sample of a girl speaking is randomly introduced.

It seems that most everything in this album flows together perfectly, and that’s probably true: when the delay pedals are on and the sounds of muddled bass notes continue to numb the listener, there are virtually no complaints to be made. The band definitely knows how to craft their songs, which is why every track on this album sounds like it’s meant to be there. But what they perhaps haven’t yet discovered is that they’ve really been writing an album here. And not just an album but an ambient album. The songs should bleed into each other, leaving behind little white space, but they don’t. They fade down towards the end and give each other space. At some moments, this feels just mildly awkward, but it begins to ruin the running atmosphere towards the end of the album when things get a bit more intense.

It’s a very good idea to allow this album a full, uninterrupted listen. Though “Lung Wine” or “Powder and Tin” alone are heartbreaking enough to give the listener a decent understanding of what Homba is about, there is still much more to understand. Even by the end of the album, after the last crash of “The Butcher’s Wife” ’s finale settles in, you wonder if that is really it. It doesn’t seem like this album is building up to any particular climax, much less that one. Homba’s overall lack of concrete development could be because at the end of 51 minutes, nothing is really over. For all we know, this is the first winter of many more to come.

Rating: 7.8/10

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[currently listening to: Seven - Sunny Day Real Estate]

Posted by Anna at September 6, 2010 10:45 PM
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