Winterquilt is the project of a nameless producer from Liverpool in the UK. Combining elements from symphonic black metal and vaporwave, Winterquilt creates a fascinating amalgamation of sounds that is bewildering, enjoyable, and cathartic. Winterquilt’s latest release entitled “O’Discordia” was released on August 24th, 2020 through Geometric Lullaby.
The cover artwork for “O’Discordia” by Fvckrender is quite a beautiful piece. It stands out amidst the rest of Winterquilt’s releases as my favorite visual style of the bunch. There’s just something incredibly pleasing about looking a giant chromatic serpent slithering through a rose bush. The artwork fits right in with the Satanic vibe of “O’Discordia.” Aesthetically, this is slick and well-executed.
Musically, “O’Discordia” reminds me of the first time I listened to Arcturus’s “La Masquerade Infernale”…way back in 1997. I feel that both albums do something really similar, where “La Masquerade Infernale” combined a Black Metal sensibility with avant-garde Symphonic Metal, Winterquilt combines the sensibility of a Vaporwave artist with Symphonic Black Metal. The result, at least in my view, is mostly successful, however, without the presence of guitars or any physical instruments it makes me wonder how this would’ve turned out had an actual band collaborated to actually perform what occurs on this release. From a technical stand-point, the virtuoso-esque dynamics explored throughout “O’Discordia” have been greatly demystified as the proliferation of DAWs becomes more commonplace in the hands of the general public. Don’t get me wrong, what Winterquilt has done here is breathtaking—but it wouldn’t exist in its current form without the exploitation of complicated MIDI-manipulation via Piano Roll “painting.” This is an album that wouldn’t have existed thirty years ago. Especially not at the hands of a single producer as a lot of what’s going on here would be near impossible to play. That said, I think that part of the fun of “O’Discordia” lies in that simple fact—its impossibility.
At about 2:30 into “His cloven hoof (feat. Naut)” I was flabbergasted by the sonic textures of what I was hearing. Winterquilt combines all of the good elements of late 90s progressive black metal (especially with regards to the drums), cartoony elevator jingles, and Bach. Winterquilt creates space by really laying down hard on the reverb but not so hard that it distorts the original sounds used here. The subtle use of piano is nice, as it creates a certain ambient kind of reflection allows the music to breathe. There’s a good deal of plucky metallics going on throughout “O’Discordia” that are filtered through various LFOs, pitch bends, and portamentos that give a bouncy sort of warmth to this album.
“I’m thinkin of you.. (feat. sage hardware)” stands out as my personal favorite from “O’Discordia.” There’s a couple of reasons for this. The strings on this sound vibrant and alive, but not so alive that they sound like the blah-blah soundtracky Hans Zimmer quality that’s all the rage in the Synthwave scene. These strings are cheesy AF and harken back to projects like Limbonic Art or “Prometheus…” era Emperor. The drums sound rather “human,” albeit in a Deathspell Omega “Drought” sort of way. Winterquilt also tastefully (and unironically) uses that familiar downsampled, slow as molasses, Vaporwave vocal we’ve all grown to love. The kicker, is that instead of coming off as a novelty, it adds real, tangible weight to this song. Go figure. Truly, this is the high water mark of this album.
The title track “O’Discordia (feat. fire-toolz)” is also nothing short of an orchestral odyssey, but it builds upon what the two tracks before it did. It also adds an extra dollop of glitch into the mix that keeps the forward momentum of the album fresh. I particularly enjoy the “applause” that occurs at around 7:30. It just adds a slight visual element that makes me think of some twisted kind of carnival stage show starring the Marquis De Sade himself. The first time I heard the “Boogie” vocal come in, I didn’t really like it, but after a few spins of this album, I think it’s a neat little nod to proper Vaporwave. I quite enjoy it.
The final song “The Pathos of Things” is an upbeat instrumental tribute to the dreamfunky t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者. It reminds me (greatly) of Arcturus’s “Aspera Hiems Symfonia,” both in general vibe and execution.
I often wonder the direction music will take after the “new-car smell” of extreme automation, glitch, and filters finally wears off. Something tells me it’s only going to get weirder from here. As a traditional flesh and bone musician, I feel that the sort of thing Winterquilt is presenting with “O’Discordia” is absolute fucking sacrilege, but as an fellow artist I can’t help but absolutely admire what they’ve done with this album. I think that while Vaporwave can occasionally sound like nightmare fuel, Winterquilt has given that idea legs by creating something frightening, beautiful, and a little controversial (due to how it was artistically constructed).
I think it takes a lot balls to release an album like this. So please check it out. It’s definitely going to be a nominee on my personal list for 2020’s album of the year.
RECOMMENDED FOR: People who aren’t scared to admire art.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “I’m thinkin of you.. (feat. sage hardware),” “O’Discordia (feat. fire-toolz)”
Album Color Profile: #8E44AD
You can find all things Winterquilt at https://winterquilt.bandcamp.com/