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Record Review from web archive January 14, 2009

Winterpills

Central Chambers (Signature Sounds/Soft Alarm)

The two-part harmonies of Philip Price and Flora Reed are gentle and hushed. On Winterpills albums, you get the sense the duo is singing in a cramped apartment, trying to keep the volume down so they don’t agitate cranky neighbors or a roommate nursing a migraine. At the same time, though, those muted vocals are weighty and potent, haunting the lyrical dreamscape songs that Price has the knack to engrave directly onto listeners’ eardrums, usually on the initial spin.

Throughout Winterpills’ third release, Central Chambers, these gorgeous harmonies show something new: They are the perfect delivery mechanism for dense, ponderous songs that examine mortality and imagine what comes next. On “Take Away The Words”, Price and Reed sing more typical harmonies over the first two verses; then Price floats up to a falsetto, and Reed levitates airily above that. Though it lasts for just a few lines, the effect is mesmerizing and otherworldly. Elsewhere, the short, seemingly innocent opening track “Everything” could have fit snugly onto the Once soundtrack. Its bookend, the closing elegy “Immortal”, with Reed’s voice accompanied only by a sustain-saturated piano and scratchy vinyl sounds, is eerily beautiful.

Overall, Central Chambers is more nuanced and layered than Winterpills’ past efforts. Instruments appear suddenly and depart similarly. One constant is the inventive yet perfectly restrained drumming and percussion from Dave Hower. His feel for what is called for at each shadowy turn is grounding. And with this collection of movingly dusky songs, grounding is a welcome complement.


Winterpills also apparently are pretty funny folks: “The Iraqi shoe-throwing incident at Bush’s last press conference there is lovingly recreated, starring Winterpills own Brian Akey, with a cameo by Philip Price, and photographed by Kate Bradley.”

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