Essential New Music: Windy & Carl’s “Allegiance And Conviction”

Sooner or later, the lure cannot be resisted. Allegiance And Conviction is Windy & Carl’s concept record. The Dearborn, Mich., duo held off for a long time. Windy Weber and Carl Hultgren started off together in 1992, forming part of a wave of musicians who took to heart My Bloody Valentine’s lesson that the guitar renaissance was only a pedalboard away. Their early recordings emphasized the movement of pure sound, with Weber’s bass navigating melodic channels through the tidal surges of Hultgren’s delay-drenched guitar. 

Over time, song forms have emerged, and the sound sources have broadened a bit to include the occasional keyboard and Weber’s voice, but those six-string clouds have never dispelled. Tones and tunes have usually served to deliver an affective message, but on Allegiance And Conviction, words deliver a multi-layered one. The album was conceived as a story about a spy in peril. Since Weber’s voice is often buried under echoing pianos and guitars, it takes a bit of work to chart her progress from the moment of first threat to the final escape. That’s not an obstacle to appreciating Windy & Carl’s strong suit; this music is some of the mostly darkly and potently atmospheric of their career. But since the words tend to surface like breaching mammals in a vast and heaving sea, the obscuration of their lyrics also makes it possible for the listener to project a more autobiographical meaning onto lines like “In the underground, we’ve got a job to do.”

Between recording, touring, occasionally self-releasing their music and running their store (Stormy Records), the couple has done the work of keeping a musical underground. While that underground has never been more at risk than it has been in the Not On Tour spring of 2020, Allegiance And Conviction makes a strong argument for the emotional weight that accumulates with decades of work. 

—Bill Meyer