tim bettinson alludes to the album artwork of winter within the first lines of “collapse.” he lingers on the phrase “and they’re all frozen over” ever so slightly before the understated electronic drums enter in the foreground, and then vancouver sleep clinic takes off. it’s not as if we haven’t heard this song before; “collapse” has been floating around the internet since late last year and “vapour” has been around even longer, but both songs hold more significance within the context of the rest of the band’s debut ep. it’s easy to pinpoint contemporary influences throughout winter, with bettinson’s falsetto evoking bon iver’s justin vernon and the sleep clinic’s instrumentation referencing minimalists like james blake, but there’s a stark sense that the trio is contributing to the advancement of this little ethereal niche, instead of merely emulating their heroes.
up until the release of winter, the songs offered up by vancouver sleep clinic had all been relegated to the realm of pop; “flaws” is a three-minute slice of downtempo goodness, complete with metaphoric heartbreakers like “tangled in the bones of this love/melding to the flow of your blood,” and “vapour” belongs in a hypothetical pantheon of dreamy, soft-rock perfection, but the rest of the ep tests boundaries on either side of radio-edit length. “stakes” is the most expansive offering found on winter, with a false ending and subsequent coda that is almost majestic, complete with brass swells that complement bettinson’s laments. the song is juxtaposed with “(aftermath),” a short, simple piano interlude that proves vancouver sleep clinic doesn’t only excel at extravagant. closing number “rebirth” is an extended exercise in this simplistic practice, with acoustic guitar arpeggiations wandering off into the distance.
it shouldn’t matter that the three members of vancouver sleep clinic are only seventeen, but their age in comparison to the maturity of their music speaks volumes about the body of work they have created. winter is a collection of songs that all complement one another, with no single track standing out ahead of the pack. but that’s the way it’s supposed to be; bettinson waxes poetic about the basic emotions of adolescence in a way few others are capable of. do yourself a favor and spend twenty-five minutes getting lost in the sounds of vancouver sleep clinic.