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New Age Reporter Review of WINTER - page 2


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"...There are six more tracks on Winter, including a patented Kendle-too-lovely-for-words song, “A Flock of Birds” which harkens back to some of the artist’s first works, primarily Eventide and First Light. Hushed chorales, reverbed keyboards, gentle strings, and an evocative echoed trumpet paint a sonic landscape of the coldest season of the year, when the countryside is draped in snow and a special sense of quiet and peace settles on the land like a flannel blanket. “Snowfall” features delicate guitar, mournful soprano sax, and starts out quietly, slowly adding in shimmering synths, soft piano, and dramatic strings, with crescendos which lend the song some neo-orchestral “oomph” without becoming over-bearing or pretentious. “Icicles” is the playful exuberant piece on the album, with all manner of electronic keyboards flitting here and there (on headphones, this track is a real treat). Once again, soprano sax takes the lead on the melody, dancing about all the other instruments, joined later by Chris Conway’s tin and low whistles. As the song unfolds the mood becomes almost jubilant, with the wind instruments soaring amidst chorales and even a vintage moog!

One of my favorite tracks on this wonderful album is the melancholic “Dreaming Fields” which is also the longest song on the CD at a tick over eleven minutes. Twinkling chimes and “metallics,” gently swirling keyboards, and a solitary oboe combine to evoke a blend of sadness, reflection and somber beauty, i.e. the season’s juxtaposed characteristics. Other musical elements enter as the track proceeds, but the song never deviates from its original minimalist character. “Silent Trees” concludes the CD and this wouldn’t be a Kevin Kendle recording without at least one appearance by Brian Abbott’s glissando guitar. Here it’s in the service of a sad and forlorn composition, with Nigel Shaw’s holly flute, ethereal chorales, and a drifting sense of movement, as if one were being carried on a breeze, wending one’s way through a forest in the fading light of a winter’s day. As the song moves forward, it gradually builds toward an emotional conclusion, with orchestral strings and massed choirs combining to reach for a crescendo that doesn’t overwhelm the listener but seemingly elevates the song into something grand yet tragic at the same time, as if the forest itself was sighing as it resigns itself to entering its annual slumber as its many inhabitants die away until spring’s eventual rebirthing process.

I hope I have conveyed the width, depth and breadth of Kevin Kendle’s remarkable achievement with my words but I fear that only by listening to the music itself can you appreciate the care, passion, and technical mastery that went into Winter. I don’t know that I can say this is the crowning achievement of Kevin Kendle’s career, since he’s still relatively young and has also already produced so many great albums. However, it surely stands apart from his other CDs as the most musically complex, emotionally engaging, and most thoroughly realized (from a musical statement point of view) one he has released so far. It’s no surprise that, in his liner notes, he reveals it took him two and a half years to record it. From my perspective, I’m glad he persevered. If you give this exceptional album a spot on your CD shelf, I think you’ll agree with me. Winter earns the highest recommendation I can offer, with room to spare.

Review for New Age Reporter by
Bill Binkelman
Producer and Host
Wind and Wire
Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN



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