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Album Review


Various Artists Winter Chill (06.04)
Hed Kandi


Article written by Ian R
Jan 27, 2005.

The cover notes for this double album proclaim this compilation to be: "deeply dark and sometimes disturbing". The darker side of chill out? This is about as dark as trying to kiss the fiery surface of the sun with your eyelids superglued open, as threatening as an episode of 'My Family', as disturbing as a trip to your Gran's. It is as soft and as comfortable as being wrapped in cotton wool and rolling around in a room stuffed to the brim with cushions, feathers and clawless kittens. What would the Hed Kandi team think if they ever heard Luke Vibert or the Aphex Twin when even the Sugababes and Katie Melua give them the fear?!

It is all very nice but then so are many things that should never be over-indulged in. You may like candyfloss but if you were forced to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner you would soon become sick of it, not to mention as toothless as this painfully fluffy compilation of muted ballads and strummed acoustic lightweight loveliness. Nearly every single track contains breathy female vocals, nice strings and the majority are as inoffensive and unchallenging (and often uninspiring) musically as they can possibly contrive to be. If you can imagine the melancholic soundtrack to Bridget Jones stuffing a kilo bar of Dairy Milk down her throat while on her lonesome then you are close to understanding the overall tone of this collection.

Having said that, I did enjoy listening to parts of this compilation. It is laid-back, soothing and could be used as an effective aural equivalent of a shoulder-massage after a hard day at the office as it slowly induces a calm, sedative reverie. But while Zero 7 songstress, Sia's best Tori Amos impression on 'Breathe Me' is gently touching and the sleepy, harmonica-blessed blues of Mazzy Star's 'Flowers In December' genuinely heartfelt, the only tracks that really stand out are the few that depart from the otherwise rigid blueprint. I Am Kloot's 'Mermaids' creates some welcome depth with its downbeat aquatic atmospherics, 'Burning Up' by the Alpinestars thankfully raises the tempo and retains interest through its moody chords and hypnotic chorus and the warm jazz of Dead Composers' 'Chile Con Carne' transports you to a sun-baked, palm-lined paradise beach. But there are precious few variations on the overall theme across two discs making 'Winter Chill' largely bland and predictable.

There is no problem with chill-out music as a whole but what the majority of record companies fail miserably to do is provide compilations that are broad, varied and challenging, merely serving to perpetuate the misguided idea that all downtempo music sounds the same. It doesn't, check out a Big Chill compilation for proof, but if you want to play it safe and hear an easy listening album that is perfect for sofa-snuggling and cosy nights in, this is the one for you.


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