John Hudak

Pieces of Winter

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Out just in time for the holidays, Pieces of Winter is not the Christmas album your kids have been waiting for. And the album generates more interrogations than the presents waiting under the tree. A collaboration between John Hudak and Stephan Mathieu, this album relies on source recordings of snow, a certain conception of wintertime coziness, and an artistic representation of the stillness and coldness of nature during the winter season. It consists of 11 tracks. Three of them have a paragraph mark for a title and are nothing more than a few seconds of silence. Six are simply numbered and consist of gentle high-pitched drones, pure like a thick layer of fresh snow. "05" is slightly more inviting, its tones twinkling and scintillating, making the listening space comfortable and lulling instead of just inhabiting it in a sterile way, as do "01" or "08." Only two tracks are properly titled and supplied with some notes. Placed early in the track list, "Winter Garden" was recorded by Hudak using a contact microphone buried in snow that turned to ice. More snow falls on that ice, and the crystalline sparkles listeners hear are the result of this setting. A winter scene heard from under, it provides an intriguing moment and brings to mind Peter Cusack's icicle recordings (see his CD Baikal Ice). Coming late in the track list, "Nuit Blanche" consists of a long drone performed by Stephan Mathieu on pump organ and Eva-Lucy Mathieu on ocarina. Despite the Spartan minimalism of the piece, it represents the warm opposite (indoors, human/family music) of the cold "Winter Garden" (outdoors, nature music). Conceptually sound and intellectually titillating, Pieces of Winter still does not make it easy for the listener to hold on to it. It remains rather uninvolving, especially compared to some of Hudak's more striking works.