For the winter album, my concept was that it should be other-worldly, mysterious, and the darkest album mood-wise, so it's full of gelid percussion sounds, minor keys, electronic soundscapes, strange twists in the structures of the pieces, and of course lots of twinkling bells and chimes to signify snow and ice.
I definitely knew from the start that winter needed to pick up from where autumn left off, which meant echoing the last couple of piano chords from "Sunset Before A Cold Day". I did that while also morphing them with added notes, and as I was improvising, this recurring figure popped up which formed the basis of the entire piece:
Traipse Across The Frozen Beach
Traipse was one that started as a separate piano piece that wasn't originally meant for the album, but that ended up coming in handy. I believe I'm right in saying that the electronic patch that sounds the final three chords right at the end, called "Velvet Eno", was used to signify the Invisibility Cloak in the Harry Potter films!
Scent Of Balsam
The first of two pieces that are meant to counter the constant coldness and minor-ness of the rest of the album. This particular one had a weird start: it was inspired by a fragrance! Specifically "Noël" by Crabtree & Evelyn, a bottle of which has been lying in a box of family Christmas decorations for years. Upon giving it a good sniff for a few minutes, the very first chord, a Dflat6-9 as it happens, was the first sound to come to mind.
Cold Upon Cold
I work as a freelance composer for production libraries and much of that involves writing ambient tracks. This idea may have become an ambient atmosphere of some kind for a production album, except I felt strongly enough about it to squirrel it away for myself for the winter album.
Black Ice Lane
Originally this was meant to be a sequel to Drizzle Woods, until I decided on re-arranging the Woods theme and creating a suite from that. It was tricky to land on a final structure for this one as I ended up with one too many melodic ideas to stuff into it, so I settled on using a smaller number of ideas that come back several times and interweave, the three main ones of which are below:
The ubiquitous "Something Woods" theme comes back, and for the winter version, I've arranged it into E minor, replaced the acoustic guitar and clavichord with electronic pads and wind effects, and added a new little minor melody to complement the main theme.
Lonely Snow Monster
This was the last piece I composed fo the album, and I was after something a little less heavy and serious but still melancholy and sad. I was in a classical, tradition film-score mood as I was working, and ended up with this, one particular melody I'm rather proud of and a slight nod to Maurice Ravel and John Williams. It has an alternative title - "The Groke", after the particularly lonely snow monster from Tove Jansson's "Moomins" novels.
I felt that this was to be the "anthem" of the album, the strongest melody I ended up composing for it, and I named it to match that. The guitar tone and melody are a half-deliberate nod to Camel, the English prog rock band.
Lights Of All Colours
This was another piece that I thought needed a place on the album to stand against the minor-ness. It's deliberately a Christmas/winter festival piece, a moment of joy in amongst the horrible sad cold. There's a slightly hymnal feel to the middle section, mostly inspired by old-fashioned counterpoint.
I felt that the right way to end the winter was to have a "melting" piece, and/or a last big burst of winter before it begins to die away and make way for spring. It also needed one more spacious, ambient-style atmosphere piece to counter all the rhythms and chimes of the rest of the album.
Because it was so loose and full of tempo changes, I recorded a solo piano rendition of the piece for a base, then set every other instrument on top of that.