Review Summary: A record too precious to be the only one in the register of a group that is sadly focussing on creating OSTs now
Every now and then you'll come across some lucky pick while surfing randomly on Youtube, getting accurate recommendations on Spotify or just by browsing and/or interacting on this wonderful site. Well, this one is an exception - at least for me.
Berlinist is a group of people from Barcelona, Spain. Before releasing this masterpiece, they uploaded a handful of songs on bandcamp from 2012 to 2015. However, after "The Winter Hexagon" they have focussed on doing soundtracks for movies and video/mobile games, which (at least as far as I know) are far from being any popular.
That was until a small Spanish video game studio created the indie game "Gris" and released it in December 2018 - a colorful and astonishing little game with wonderful art, which soon became quite popular, mostly because of the handcrafted art style and the beautiful atmosphere. That's where Berlinist come into play.
I was listening to the soundtrack of a game I was playing at that time called "Transistor", which by the way has also a really great soundtrack (made by Darren Korb). When the video finished, I wanted to browse some video game soundtracks and after some skips I saw Gris and remembered the hype that was built around it. I haven't played it yet, but - damn! - the soundtrack instantly caught me off guard. I finally discovered Berlinist and music levitated to a whole new level of beauty for me.
The Winter Hexagon consists mostly of classical instruments underlined by a standard drum set and a few electronical effects. Nothing special so far. The magic happens in the way the instruments are layered, timed and played. They know when to start, when to end and when to keep it low. On this record, nothing will be in the foreground jumping in your face - not even the vocals by both the male and the female vocalists. Every instrument is played in a rather warm, "soft and soothing" way, even the drums, and this makes you wanna spin this gem again and again just to discover another violin that has been playing so quietly, you nearly haven't noticed. This record never even comes close to being loud, pushy or obtrusive and at the same time it won't get boring either, because there is so much to discover. You can listen to it while dozing away or just sitting there with your headphones on and paying attention to every little detail, you don't even want to eat something because the noise would distract you.
As if that is not enough, Berlinist also released an instrumental version of this album. Right until this very point, I am still not sure which version of the record I love more. One big reason for this are the song structures that don't come in your standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-orwhatever way of writing.
That being said, there are two minor "flaws" that keeps this record from a 5. The first one is that none of the songs stands out in a memorable way, like (for example) for using a instrument or a certain way of playing that all the other songs are missing. It's not like all the songs sound the same. They don't. But being a big fan of variety, I for one would appreciate little aspects of songs that make them stand out. On the other hand is the sound of "The Winter Hexagon" very organic and the individual songs blur totally smoothly into one beautiful playthrough.
The second flaw is the lack of really technical playing, which I usually dig and also need to fully appreciate a record. But then again, this record is comparably slow and relaxed and playing in a technical sophiticated way often (not always though) means playing fast - something that would totally destroy the overall mood and atmosphere of this.
In my humble opinion, this is genuinely the best record for you if you are searching for something exciting to relax to and especially if you are into neo classical stuff like Poppy Ackroyd or post rock in the likes of Behind the Shadow Drops and Low Roar . Give yourself a break, lay down, listen to this and try to fight the feeling of comfort and safety along with the urge to sleep, because you are so relaxed. I dare you.