Ravie Nuage has not put out an album since 2015, though they have filled the gap with a few singles here and there. And, Winter exemplifies the band’s ability to make warm music in spite of (or perhaps by the means of) melancholy lyrics. As an explicit next step from their 2013 EP Winter Songs, this album concentrates on creating a soundscape in which each instrument and vocal track emanates warmth like puffs of breath on a cold day.
The first track “Winter Song” epitomizes this with reverbed vocals. An unrequited letter of love, this song expresses a restrained sense of solitude with delicately balanced instruments. The clean guitar in the background plays only one note at a time, while the lack of drums gives ample space for the piano to drive the rhythm.
“Last” is, as the band’s vocalist Pomme put it, an awesome song, demonstrating a characteristic excellence in emotional narrative. The abject melody contains most of this fluctuation and progression of emotions, while the instrumentals act as something for the melody to lean on. The bluesy bass and drums have no frills, and the strings come in just to the extent it makes sense. The guitar solo adds a stronger touch of blues to the track, helping build up emotions for the climax of sad energy.
The most psychedelic track of the album is the third track “Lost,” with a dampened 80s FM electric piano immediately creating a dreamy soundscape. The vocals get a lot of headroom with the reverbs, while the drums also follow suit with reverberated snares. The guitars, one sounding almost like a bow is being drawn across the strings and another with distorted chords, all fit the bill for a colder acoustic environment. This is something band Nell has mastered, but Ravie Nuage also pulls it off nonetheless.
The reverbs give way to a more intimate atmosphere in “Break Up,” which goes well with the heavy sounds from the cello. This track is more reminiscent of the band’s leader and pianist Jeon Jin Hee’s solo album Piano And Voice, though the drums and bass give it a richer feel.
“When Would It Be (2010 Demo)” showcases one of the greatest strengths of Ravie Nuage, which is that it does not need to play around with stacking sounds or instruments to create something that sucks you in. Even with just a piano and voice, the melody construction, chord progression and execution, and vocal expression convey enough emotions and energy for the track to feel like a handful.
The instrumental version of “Last” closes out the album, emphasizing the melody by excluding it. Even if the entire melody might not be fully formed in your head, the instrumentals are still inviting enough for you to go along with the buildup and release of emotions in the track.
And, Winter is both an album of solitude and warmth. The empathy engendered by this album of being alone together is how Ravie Nuage has always offered comfort, their instrumental prowess allowing for a more delicate expression of complex emotions. This album is one I will continue to go back to.