For such massive pieces, Jazzfinger's concotions are suprisingly subdued on first listen. Not that they didn't hit immediately, just that I was more transfixed by the hynpotism than the power of Ben Jones and Hasan Gaylani's sound, but not too many listens later their drones came crashing down on my cranium like tidal waves that had froze in mid-air for a few tantalizing seconds before engulfing everything below. This was most true with the longer tracks, which tend to be the best: the 13-minute "At First Wovey" is an atmospheric prayer that slowly ascends to a grind; the 10-minute, perfectly-titled "Stare at Things" turns a Spacemen 3-styled organ drone into a laser-beam of eye-dilating light; and the album's epic, the 17-minute "Shadow Moose," uses frightening voices and harrowing bursts to scare up a continent's worth of aural ghosts. Most stunning about Winter's Shadow is the track-to-track tonal deviation - jump around this CD and it's like comparing species of animals, but bury yourself in any single drone and the unmistakable, foundation-moving center is like the lifeforce that links all beings.
When I'm drooling over any drone, there's often a voice in my head nagging "yeah, good, but how good?," and to that charlatan I offer the following: for me and probably any drone-licking sucker, the concept of "good or bad" is basically laughable. Give me a long solid tone with even an iota of dedication or patience to it and I'm not gonna sit around splitting hairs about the degree to which it floors me. Yet the concept of "better" still applies, and "better" drone, be it Phill Niblock's dense skyscrapers, Double Leopards' gravelly howls , or Tony Conrad's flammable sawing (which is the kind of air-ripping drone Jazzfinger mostly closely resembles, at least on the beautifully grating track linked below), attains immediate primal contact with some kind of universal ground-zero. It's like a divining rod reaching directly into a reactive center in your gut, a hot metal stake stirring a motlen liquid core. These kind of straight-shot belly-needles are immediately identifiable and need no time or context to cut through the skin - not only do they pierce instantly, at best they even fill the resulting hole, replacing your innards with heavy gravitational sound. Jazzfinger's best moments are exactly that - a medicinal noise prescribed to fill internal voids.