Slow, spacey keyboard sounds build into a multilayered crashing of guitars and drums, only to give way to a lonely steel guitar, leaving the listener with a vibe that’s hard to pinpoint. This is “The Surveyor,” the instrumental first track on the third Winter’s Fall album, At All Angles, and it sets the tone for what is to come. Crossing genres like shoegaze, ’70s rock and country, this five piece from Berkeley, Calif., has a lot going on. Far from being jarring, the blending of styles is smooth and creates an end product that is rich and palatable.
A key element to being able to experiment is trust in one’s collaborators, which Winter’s Fall members certainly have. They’ve been playing together as a group for five years, but most have known each other much longer. Guitarist/frontman Peter Stanley and pianist/drummer Keith Gidlund even went to preschool together. Stanley thinks the band’s freedom in using multiple styles comes from its members’ lack of formal training. “For the most part we are all self-taught,” Stanley says over e-mail. “I feel this gives us a sense of honesty in how we approach music, that it allows us to interpret our influences in a way that’s personal and unique to us as a band.”
At All Angles manages to sound new but nostalgic at the same time. There’s something familiar about it, like an old favorite you haven’t heard in a while. Stanley describes the music that resonates with him, the albums he keeps going back to, in the same way. His influences range from Neil Young and Devo to Jack Kerouac and Jorge Luis Borges. He’s drawn to bands that reinterpret familiar styles. “We are very interested in music that sounds natural and authentic.”
Winter’s Fall crafted At All Angles for three years, plotting every key, tempo and transition in advance. Stanley says the music has a strong narrative and a deliberate arc, anchored by three instrumental tracks at the beginning, middle and end of the album. A traditional country sound is meshed with electronic landscapes; a juxtaposition of old and new. Stanley agrees that this aesthetic is not just in the music, but how the band presents itself on the whole. A short video, documenting the “making of the album,” is a collection of poetic images that expands on that aesthetic. Weathered warehouses and clips of Stanley playing acoustic guitar are woven with shots of technology and advancement—banks of electronic equipment and airplanes taking off. Dualism is big a part of our environment, Stanley says. “There is such a heavy value placed on what's new in our culture, that sometimes quality is abandoned and overlooked just because it’s old.”