Winter's Gate

  Digital Download $9.99

Winter's Gate is a set of 11 musical tableaux based on winter images, local neighbourhood landmarks, and poetic fragments. Highlight tracks include the atmospheric opening number "Winter's Gate," the driving funk piece "Santafunked," the haunting in-and-out-of-sync "The Pulse In this Great Sadness," and the quasi-pop tune turned inside-out, "Black Dog On White Ice."

As with their first recording, Hold True (Ambiances Magnétiques), the Vertical Squirrels bring together an inventive blend of string sounds. Heble's dense pianistic interweavings and Fischlin's textural use of the 12-string guitar interlock with percussionist Warren's and bassist Melville's intuitive playing. Winter's Gate is a unique boundary- and genre-crossing exploration of what winter might sound like when improvised into being.

Bonus tracks on the CD feature extracts from the first encounter with percussionist Warren, "A Rough Idea" (dedicated to Toronto impresario extraordinaire Ron Gaskin), found street sounds from the demonstrations that brought down the Pinochet government in Chile, and a sonic ode to frustration with Christmas wrappings. Winter's Gate is at once a whimsical blend of sonic impressions inspired by winter's impending arrival and a mix of exploratory musical iterations filled with humour, unexpected turns, and a deep commitment to in-the-moment musical explorations.

Daniel Fischlin (guitar); Ajay Heble (piano); Lewis Melville (bass); and Ted Warren (percussion).

REVIEW: VERTICAL SQUIRRELS Winter’s Gate (Barcode Free) Garden pests or welcome guests—it depends on your proclivity for improvised instrumentals. The 14 pop, funk and, well, squirrelly tracks on this sophomore CD find the band honing in on their sound, running along the fence more than meandering around the yard. Most pieces feature the highly compressed, fuzzed-out lead guitar incursions of Daniel Fischlin, backed by circling piano cells, bass and clattering drums. Think Swell Maps circa Whatever Happens Next… with Nikki Sudden replaced by Robert Fripp. (Lawrence Joseph, Montreal Mirror

1. Winter's Gate (Hesitant Blue)
2. Silent Night
3. Santafunked
4. This Dust is Made of Bones
5. Snow on Meadow Lake (Winter Ceasefire)
6. Chilblains
7. The Pulse in This Great Sadness
8. Gate, No Fence
9. Misguided Snow Angel
10. Spider Thoughts in Snowstorm
11. Black Dog on White Ice