It’s a grey, overcast day in spring as I write this, and, with admittedly below-average temperatures, I’m almost wishing in earnest for some snow to start falling. At least the tender and downright beautiful voice of Kyle Rasche ascending from whispers to wails in the chorus of Next Few Winters is evoking a sense of appreciation for the indifferent austerity of that season. As the lead track for a brand new EP, Rasche positions this snow-filled season as an anchor of perspective — showing us that our literal and metaphorical summers are assigned such favorability for their verdancy because of how starkly winter contrasts with its stinging cold and its hushed dormancy. While that’s a poignant sentiment in itself, the emotions are piqued by the production — with a trembling violin and the elemental drone of an accompanying electric guitar.
It is a ballad, an ode, to life in Michigan, whether you are on the snow-swept coast of Lake Michigan or shrouded by blizzards in the U.P. It’s a fine demonstration of Rasche’s signature style of an impressionistic folk that is tender and heavy at the same time. With unhurried tempos and atmospheric dressings, and a wispy-weary voice finding the perfect verbiage to illustrate all these connections between people and land, between humans and their homes. Whether these connections are symbolic or tangible, they are worth meditating on. And an EP like Next Few Winters certainly encourages that meditation.
It may be a chilly spring as I write this, but Rasche has found a way to make me reverent for the harshness of winter — and even pride in being a Michigander. Rasche has been writing and recording as Chain of Lakes for just over a decade. He’s based out of Alto, Michigan, a rural town southeast of Grand Rapids, which, for the record, gets up to 22 inches of snowfall each season. Rasche arranged and wrote these songs, utilizing his breathtaking vocals and rhythmic guitar strums, but he’s got contributions from Jeffrey Niemeier on violin, Eric Raby on bass and piano, and Kyle Vaderveen adding those distant-whooshing sheens of ambient guitar tones.
Anytime you write and perform with a predominantly acoustic arrangement, the tendency is to consider this as “folk” music. But more than anything, Rasche is making music for self-reflection, for taking stock, for finding the glimmers of resolve and fortitude necessary to do more than just make it through a day or a week but to persevere through all seasons of life. The cold months always come back — but this is not some sort of inconvenience. It’s more so a characteristic, a rite, of the place we call home. Here in Michigan, “the wise dress warm…”