Make We Here Our Camp Of Winter is buried under a foot of snow and enveloped in a crisp, lo-fi light. Originally from Helsinki, Finland, The Gentleman Losers formed in 2004, and this is the band’s fourth full-length release. Brothers Samu and Ville Kuukka are certainly experienced when it comes to ushering out music (they’ve been playing music together since they were teenagers), and although far from prolific, preferring to take their time and produce quality over quantity, their grainy textures can only come about through experience, and it shows on this latest release. Its heart is tuned into post-rock, ambient, and electronic signals, its ice-encrusted guitars propping up a bare-branched and misty atmosphere.
At times, one can feel the cold of the season seeping into the music, but at the same time, their music can remain warm to the touch; the textures seem to change with subtlety depending on the outside temperature. Electronics and beats bring warmth, while a lo-fi atmosphere drains heat like a leaking radiator. The minimal, clean guitars and the kiss of tape hiss can be a comforter, but it can also sum up the sparse, naked portrait of winter, with its dead leaves, empty fields, and long pauses. Generally, though, the music remains indoors, looking out at the dropping temperatures while radiating a pastoral atmosphere. Brewing in a home-made musical stew, its oscillating tones and stark blue hues are reminiscent of early Boards of Canada, texturally satisfying and rich in nutrients.
Like a swan hovering on a cold and silver lake, Make We Here Our Camp Of Winter is a slow and elegant dance. The music feels old, somehow appearing with the quality of a VHS tape from the 1970’s, giving it a fragile feeling; too much force, and the tape unspools in your hands. Balletic chords rise up, prodding the electronics. Grainy stock footage of old trees and country trails appear in the frame, deserted in the cold, absent of both people and animals. Folk music is deeply connected to nature, and ‘Fish Roam In Winter Water’, along with its poetic spoken word, bends into the leftfield, twisting like a branch into largely unexplored areas of folk. The whole record has a paradoxical feeling of bleak vacancy and hearty fulfillment; the stark outside versus the warm interior. With lots of sweet ideas being inserted to create harmonic verve, it would be easy to rush things, but the brothers get their timing down. Everything plays out and develops with patience, enjoying the season’s silences and embracing a bracing wind rather than counting down the days to spring. Patience doesn’t equal slow development, as this album is thick with progression at every turn. Every four bars or so, a new element will be added, much like a pop song or an electronic track, giving the music some true momentum while remaining thoroughly chilled.
Mainly written in a cabin by a lake in southern Finland, this record is instantly likeable. The brothers used vintage analogue equipment and modern production techniques to record the album, blending the two to form a strange and heady mix that rings true to the ears and, more importantly, to the heart. Guitar melodies slide around in the distance, and the use of lap steel guitar, analogue synth, teensy bass lines, and barely-there rhythms all help in building an introverted landscape.
This is a record for December; tones rise like steam from a kettle while all else is quiet. An electric guitar, decorated in reverb, will glimmer like tinsel in the foreground while a steady bass plays a repeating riff in the backroom, its structure befitting a slower vein of post-rock. Because there’s a lot of subtle activity, it isn’t a passive album; it’s just trying to keep warm by moving around, keeping its blood circulating. But the activity slows down the further one goes. The coda, ‘Bend Low, Sweet Branch, Bend Low’, reflects the stillness of the season. The quiet and recurring jingle, the sparse chords, and the emergence of a thin, delicate melody, all alone in the late-sleeping, pale daylight, converge to create a beautiful track. Despite the chill in the air and the sub-zero temperatures, it’s still a beautiful scene.