The Declining Winter "Goodbye Minnesota" |
The Declining Winter is Richard Vincent Adams (also of Hood), an unconventional songwriter with an eye for experimental folk pop. Goodbye Minnesota is a very satisfying debut album, and it's been put out in a nifty cardboard sleeve courtesy of the charming Rusted Rail label. This largely instrumental disc is a wistful, highly atmospheric expedition, although it retains a melodic quality that makes it especially listenable. Often, Adams' songs sound like excerpts from film scores - which is a good thing, to be clear. The folky twang of "We Used to Read Books," for example, conjures up images of a dusty Mojave desert at dusk, and "Goodbye Minnesota" might accompany a slow aerial shot of a depressed suburbia. Adams enlists the help of his friends on several of these tracks, although the majority of the sound comes from himself and the computer wizardry of Christopher Adams. Unwilling to produce traditional 'songs,' Adams designs meandering experiments that can best be conceptualized as moodpieces - whether they are instrumental post-rock dabbles like "Last Train
to Maple Grove" and "To Know Gospel", or more fleshed out offerings like "Oh God C'mon" and "Hey, Nick Heyward" (the latter of which is vaguely reminiscent of "Love Plus One"). As such, the vocals don't contribute much to the songs' melodies, instead offering an additional atmospheric element to the proceedings. Since Goodbye Minnesota isn't afraid to experiment, it doesn't really qualify as a pop album - even though these soundscapes are often remarkably infectious. Instead, culling influence from folk,
post-rock, and electronic music, Adams has produced a uniquely engaging record that deserves to be heard by adventurous music lovers.
Richard Adams spent much of the last decade alongside his brother Chris as the motivating force behind English pastoral rock outfit Hood. With Goodbye Minnesota, Adams extends that group's late-period move into gentle electronica, warping and glitching minimal folk-pop melodies played on bedroom guitars and drums. Sometimes it feels slight, as though Adams can't quite bring his ideas to full fruition, but much of Goodbye Minnesota is autumnal and graceful, its quietly resigned tenor gesturing toward emotional troubles that remain just out of focus
It has that wonderful hazy autumnal malaise that Hood at their best have with minor chords picked out on guitar and lethargic vocals and a dubby feel. Nicola Hodgkinson (Empress) provides vocals on one track. Comes packaged in a recycled card sleeve with paste-on art.
As we enter the Australian winter, where the haze and the grey and the cold hold us for ransom for a while, we have been greeted with a welcome friend, here purely by coincidence, Goodbye Minnesota by The Declining Winter. The debut album from Richard Adams, Goodbye Minnesota will be glaringly familiar in tone for anyone who is a fan of Adams' other outfit, Hood. Here, Adams continues on in the aesthetic of Hood's Outside Closer and Rustic Houses Forlorn Valleys, but in fact, the depth of sound: the rhythms, the deep basslines, all glisten referentially to the majority of Hood's catalogue of the past ten years, so much so that Goodbye Minnesota could well have been offered up as a Hood record, such is its quality. Adams uses less directness in his vocals than his brother Chris tends to in Hood, appearing to use vocals to emphasize a textural element rather than a contextual element. The album is of course wonderfully pastoral, tracks like "We Used To Read Books" suggesting the bitterness of England's remote countryside through acoustics and down-tempo rhythms. "To Know Gospel" finds once again the beauty of texture, here through meandering melodica's, reverberating organs, and shimmering guitars. Throughout there's an undercurrent of electronics, but with the brothers Adams, it's often hard to set acoustic apart from electric, rustic apart from contemporary. For me, the moment of revelry is "Last Train To Maple Grove". It comes late in the album, as you are all bleary-eyed and the blankets have melted to your legs nicely. A bass note, then another, appear, haunted by chiming then, a morose neo-classical aspect emerges, strings and synthesizers, rather chorally, and they shift and play together a while like birds, much like A Silver Mt Zion's astounding "13 Angels Standing Guard Round The Side Of Your Bed". It's short, but in the haze of it all it could be ten minutes long. The poetic "The Clock Gently Ticking in The Hall" comes in after, and it glistens; Adams waxing as though reflecting on a movement in time, a fleeting observation, a small moment in time turned into words, into song, strangely reminiscent of chamber music played in a recital hall as it plays through. There's a whole World inside Goodbye Minnesota, one that belongs to Adams, and one familiar to many of us inspired by melancholy, introspection and life's rich simplicity.
Keeping track of the various entities Hood has splintered into since the band's decision to go on indefinite hiatus two years ago has been a fun and rewarding challenge. The Declining Winter is the latest venture to surface with a full-length recorded offering but, in truth, with it Richard Adams isn't really making music which is a million miles away from that which earned his previous outfit so much acclaim. Laptop software is again used to explore the possibilities offered by traditional instrumentation, a technique pioneered by the likes of Four Tet, The Remote Viewer and late-period Boards Of Canada to redefine modern folk music but which is, it has to be said, a lot less exciting now than it was then. Nonetheless, Goodbye Minnesota is a fine example of the form and maintains the noble Hood tradition of splicing quite disparate genres to create something which sounds edgily contemporary but remains situated inexplicably, yet very definitely, in the rural North of England. Hypnotic melancholia is the order of the day - evidently Adams is not much interested in hooks, lyrics of emotional pay-off but rather in the meticulous layering of sounds to tackle some fairly weighty issues - the whole aesthetic of the album as well as its minimal packaging in a recycled cardboard sleeve points to his environmental concerns - in a manner which has more in common with electronic music than traditional songwriting. His approach isn't entirely joyless though - his brother and co-conspirator in Hood Chris Adams (now of Bracken) pops up on 'Oh God, C'Mon' to add his distinctive vocals to an already accomplished pop song, 'To Know Gospel' flirts with dub and the everpresent scrape of fingers on the fretboard of an acoustic guitar gives the whole record a feeling of great warmth and intimacy.
After one excellent 7" and a none-too-shabby remix 3"CD, Hood's Richard Adams delivers his debut solo album as The Declining Winter, and it amply delivers on all that early promise. From the opening of 'Summer Turns To Hurt' there's an instantly recognisable waft of that classic Hood sound (possibly due to some input from Richard's brother and bandmate Chris - in fact, while we're on the subject of guest spots, Chris Cole of Manyfingers shows up as a contributor too), but it seems so much more decrepit and weary (in a good way, you understand) than any recent emissions by the band, instead harking back to the ramshackle, rustic sounds of their classic form. Whispered, frail vocals disperse amongst the roomy, acoustic productions, casting a tangible sense of gloom (again, in a good way) over these subtle and melancholy songs. Over the course of this record you can hear elements of abstract hip hop mingling with weird plug-in experiments and a kind of primitive, unplugged approach to shoegaze, and then, just when you think you've got the album pegged, you'll hear something like 'Last Train To Mapel Grove', which is every bit as lonesome and dejected as its title suggests, calling upon sepia tone string samples in a fashion that recalls the finest L. Pierre recordings. The further you stray into Goodbye Minnesota, the better it seems to get, and by the time you arrive at the Haircut 100 referencing, '60s soundtrack-inspired penultimate track ('Hey, Nick Heyward') complete with echoing dulcimers, it becomes pretty clear that you're in the presence of a quietly very special, very memorable album.
The debut album from the Declining Winter is released on the Irish-based label Rusted Rail. The label has gained quite a reputation for its beautiful hand made sleeves and is a perfect home for this kind of intimate collection from Richard Adams, member of Domino band Hood. Like his former band, this is a really beautiful collection of live instruments, found sounds and touches of electronica. There are slight comparisons to the early dubby post-rock of Tortoise along with the more subdued intimate pop of Postal Service but Adams also adds in lots of lo-fi scratchy sound effects and heaps of crafty underground hip-hop beats. It's a superbly wide ranging collection of sounds all held together with a certain rustic live feel. It's both highly intricate and hypnotic at the same time. A rare gem that you shouldn't let pass you by.
Funnily enough, the sun has just popped out its fat, orange head for a minute whilst I stretch my head looking for "great verbiage" to describe Pudsey's wonderful The Declining Winter. This for the uninitiated is Richard Vincent Adams from Hood and assorted cohorts. The older of the two brothers who proudly proclaims himself as a "Stricken office worker" I guess the meaning behind the title 'Goodbye Minnesota' and that helps understand the delicate, organic and wistful beauty behind these tingling downtempo grooves. A mingling of simple acoustic guitar codas, dub textures, stargazing ambient electronics that give you goose bumps, melancholic one note keyboard lines, sad, graceful drums & reserved, tender vocals. I reckon that we've got ourselves an altogether sensual, pure and quietly exhilarating album that will delight fans of (especially) mid-period Hood & the legendary Bristol indie underground. Includes help from his lil' bro Chris (track 6, a more upbeat & cerebral number could just be a classic Hood track!) and Manyfingers' Chris Coles on peerless backing duties. All dressed in a recycled house mounted with photo on Ireland's Rusted Rail recordings.
The Declining Winter's "Goodbye Minnesota" is an ideal companion for entering the fall. As a matter of fact I think I've read four or five descriptions of this album and every single one of them pointed out the connection to this season. Anyway, what we have here is the solo musical project of Richard Adams, a co-founder of former Broken Face cover stars, Hood. Hood has always been the uncrowned tzars of finding the well-hidden gates between electronica, indie rock, dub and folk-induced pop minimalism. "Goodbye Minnesota" sounds quite a bit like mid-period Hood, like a mixture of "Rustic Houses and Forlorn Valleys" and "The Cycle of Days and Seasons", which beyond praise basically means fall reveries draped in moody acoustic drone hypnotism. I am a sucker for this kind of rain-soaked, blurry soundscapes and if you like me still return to those Hood albums on a
regular basis you can't really go wrong with this one.
Much like the season, The Declining Winter's first release is stripped bare, cold, and desolate. Yet, it also is the perfect escape on nights of bitter coldness, where a panacea is found through warm glowing memories and mulled wine. Each song aches and stirs with melancholy, an inspiriting sadness through acoustic means and measures. "We Used to Read Books": apart from the great title, this song is a post summer folk-tronica dub enthused acoustic classic. Reverb drenched drums, acoustic guitar loops, intertwined with looped sparse vocals. The Declining Winter's founder, Richard Vincent Adams, is also a member of Hood. There is no surprise then that, many songs on the album have the same rustic electronic charm as Hood's last outputs and this is more than a good thing. "Oh God Come On," features Adams on introspective vocal form, with glitch drum patterns weaving threads of sadness against watery bass lines. "Take the easy way out," has Adams either asking or daring someone to face the consequences of their actions. More beautiful acoustic guitars and synth musings appear and slide this song in the right mindful direction. An ode to feeling directionless and oh my, it's great to feel lost. To make matters even better, there are wonderful backing vocals from Nicola Hodgkinson (Empress) which wonderfully highlight this expansive sound.Despite being fairly acoustic and electronic based, TDC come up with an ambient classical masterpiece in "Last Train to Maple Grove." Minimalist bass and reflective violins play an ode to winter that is heart-warming and heart wrenching, like Town And Country Vs Stars Of The Lid. I actually like each song on this release. Every tune has its own unique twee charm. On repeated listening the album grows more and the true depth is heard and cherished in my eyes (or is that ears?), this is one of the releases of the year. A frosty musical journey that conjures up wondrous thermal images. Using sounds that are rustically pastoral in nature and form, Richard Vincent Adams has concocted the perfect "winter warmer." We should raise a toast with this concoction and say, "Goodbye Minnesota…"