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Heavy Winged - Fields Within Fields

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Artist: Heavy Winged

Album: Fields Within Fields

Label: Three Lobed

Review date: Sep. 23, 2010

An excellent exemplar of the new breed of jam bands, Brooklyn’s Heavy Winged has been busily recording albums of heavy psych-infused rock since 2004. While geographically spread out nowadays, the trio still continues to record, and Fields Within Fields is the band’s latest chapter.

Not so long ago, calling someone’s group a jam band could have resulted in a brutal fight, with comparisons to the Grateful Dead earning a possible death penalty. Over the last five years or so, an interesting thing happened: so long as the music’s heavy enough, being a psych-drone-jam band became cool. Groups like Heavy Winged, Wooden Shjips, Magic Lantern, Eternal Tapestry, Mugstar, and many others have emerged as the new cool kids. By taking the idea of stoned hippies aimlessly jamming, improving it with some rhythmic discipline courtesy of many nights spent studying Neu! and their kin, and blending in plenty of drone and noise, these bands have -- at least in the eyes of some -- made it hip to jam.

The danger for listeners, depending on the extent of their mind alteration, is the ease with which a band can lose the plot. It’s all too simple to fall in love with the sound -- whether it be a groove or a drone -- and let it ride. From the inside, it’s all good, and 20 minutes can feel like five. From the outside, it’s a different story, and an attentive listener will quickly notice when a song holding a five-minute idea is stretched to four times that length. The trick for these bands, then, is to either remain aware enough to edit or keep things moving so that the songs earn their duration.

With two long tracks, Fields Within Fields does ask for patience, and rewards it some of the time. Sixteen-minute opener "Among the Maori" starts very slowly as tribal drums and drone guitar fade in over an extended intro, before the proceedings decompose into thundering percussion and fuzzed, screeching, amorphous sonic explosions. Approaching Skullflower territory, the song comes out the far end slowed down, a mass of anarchic buzzing and feedback. "The Hum of the Universe" fills the remaining 17 minutes with a drone that fits the title well, driven by slow and heavy thuds reminiscent of a Neurosis intro. Compelling at first, the elongated thump-scrape-om is plenty textural, but too static to easily maintain interest over the long haul.

Heavy Winged offers two sides to its sound here, one fuzzed and explosive, the other heavy and contemplative. Linked by a willingness to take it easy, let things stretch out and see what happens, the songs don’t evolve enough to fully reward the listener’s patience, but they’re close. For those with an affinity for slow-mo jams, Fields Within Fields should make for a good fix.

By Mason Jones

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