Windsor For The Derby Windsor For The DerbyAgainst Love
I remember the sequence of events: first I discovered Mogwai -in my case, shortly before “Rock Action” came out- and later Hood. Around that time, ten years ago, I came into contact with Windsor For The Derby’s early music, attracted by the fact that they composed and recorded from Austin and managed to sound arid, like their adopted city, but without the formalism of country-rock bands. It was a time of desolate atmospheres, electronics that were sweeping the auditory spectrum like the wind, and if you liked post-rock without too much “post” and a little more “rock,” it was accepted that you would like Windsor For The Derby, as we were also enjoying Explosions In The Sky around the same time. But what I liked about Windsor For The Derby was that as well as being instrumental, they didn’t sound entirely like a guitar band. The use they made of synthesisers and effects pedals served to control the autumnal climate of their music, which was never cold, but not really warm either, just the right balance of melancholy, drowsiness, noise explosion, isolation… It was cloudy, but not stormy music. I was a big fan of “The Emotional Rescue” (2002), that they put out on Chicago’s Aesthetics label, and when they were signed by Strictly Canadian, I distanced myself from them without entirely forgetting them.
Let’s say that Windsor For The Derby were more special the more bubbly they managed to sound, when their model of conduct in post-rock was closer to English sound –Seefeel, Hood– than to American sound, always closer to the idea of song with a more painful voice or that of a complex, virtuoso instrumental sound. The fact that in their first steps, the group from Austin managed to hide their lyrics among waves of ambient made them less predictable and distanced them considerably from gurus like Jim O’Rourke, but in spite of everything, that situation was only fleeting, a mirage, a possibility that was never manifested as would have been desirable to avoid perpetuating clichés. And in this sense, “Against Love” is a bittersweet album because it tries to recover the tranquillity and horizontalness of the landscape Windsor For The Derby without giving up recording songs as conventional as the album’s title song, “Against Love”, which seems like a take that is just a few revolutions away from an old Sonic Youth song. It is the ambivalence that harms this return to the present after a three-year holiday. It’s very hard to put the influences of krautrock (here it’s Neu!), neo-country (Pernice Brothers, for example), US indie-rock, and drones with pop intentions all on the same level, and to want to get a masterpiece to come out of it ( “Queen of the Sun” seems to be the sum of intentions and a summary of the album - and it’s good without complications, but it’s never a revolution or something great).
“Against Love” is an album where nobody wants to take charge, or, where the destination is clear but the course is not well charted. This isn’t really a reproach, because it’s the same thing that already happened in “Giving up the Ghost” (2005) and “How We Lost” (2007), although here there is no surprise factor: the precedents had already accustomed us to Windsor For The Derby rowing in various directions, but not very hard, going in circles, happy to be in the calm waters that they have tamed themselves, without the curiosity to explore new territories. They’ve moved a lot, it’s true, but once a useful means of expression was found, they stayed there, something which completely contradicts the ideas and ethic of post-rock: never settle for what’s already been done. A ray of hope shines in with sinuous, ethereal pieces like “Alex Lucero”, “Singer 1968”, “Moon Shadows” or the shoegaze wink of “Hips”. For them, it is like going back to a previous phase of being aesthetically indefinite in order to re-launch their exploratory curiosity in another direction—ambiental music can also be confusion. But the vocal part that is so reminiscent of Sparklehorse, which we find on “Cursed Ages” and “Dull Knives”, is like a doorman who won’t let you into a club based on arbitrary criteria - a frustrating barrier. We’ll see what the next album brings, but I foresee a losing battle. Windsor For The Derby have settled themselves down into correctness, a routine, and it will be difficult for them to trot out again from here in search of adventures.
Windsor For The Derby - Cursed Ages