Falling in love is always a surprise, isn’t it? Even if we should be able to see it coming from miles ahead, it has a tendency of running us over from behind.
Tonight I fell in love with Frost*’s British Wintertime, a gentle little number off their recent album Falling Satellites. The two of us already had a very emotional, little moment a while back, but it wasn’t until tonight that the song unlocked that little something more in me.
Judging by its relatively brief lyrical content, British Wintertime may appear to be deceptively simple – but to me, this is also precisely the origin of its evocative, magical qualities. The implication of its meaning is right there in front of your eyes, yet so vague and broad it opens up a mindscape the music can not only fill in, but expand tremendously. For this reason, I don’t even want to focus on the lyrics so they are allowed to stand completely on their own and are able to create several shiver-inducing moments – including the mantra-like Something that I’ve got to say – which really reinforces the mental pressure that must be building up within the song’s narrator.
Maybe it’s the suggestion of the title that is driving my perception within this song, but I cannot say I have ever heard a piano sound both as frightfully cold as the snow and as delightfully warm as a flickering fire in a fireplace at the same time before. The piano dominates the first half of the song alongside the vocals; not quite all by itself, but standing out from a gentle, ethereal sea of background instrumentation, only slowly giving up its spotlight for the growing instrumental section that consumes the second half. It’s almost a bittersweet joy following the notes as they journey ahead on multiple levels, to be gradually overwhelmed by the rising background until it stops and opens up – but doesn’t quite break open yet. Still, there is a definite change, almost a certain clarity that stands opposed to the – at times – conflicted and clouded beginning of the song.
The break that follows, perfectly accentuated not only by an instrumental bang but also the sound of rolling thunder – as if the clouds bursts open for a downpour – marks the second part of the song. Its lead up already gives a hint of relief, of breaking free from whatever has been holding you back, but it takes that decisive moment to turn things around and open up for what’s ahead.
Void of any lyrics, this second half of British Wintertime still succeeds in evoking that certain type of musical magic that conjures up a journey in front of my mind’s eye – a prime example of why I love rambling, unrestrained progressive music. There is an instrumental thread that finds a path through this section, but doesn’t quite dwell on monotone, repetitive statements. Whereas the piano stood in the spotlight before, this spotlight seems to be gone now, giving way for a mesh of individual contributions such as the bass guitar’s brief roar, playful drum phrases, and the leading keyboard and guitar, blending together into a musical snowstorm that sweeps you along and there’s not much you can do about it.
Finally, the song manages to settle down and even to find a gentle conclusion that lingers for just a little while. There are still hints of bittersweet emotions remaining, but those always take time to fade.
Maybe British Wintertime deals with falling in love, maybe it deals with falling out of love, or maybe it deals with a different type of love altogether. Frankly, I don’t want to know at this point. I’m in love with the way it is, no interpretation needed.