Norman Westberg: The Chance To
Little Crackd Rabbit

Norman Westberg has worked with Swans since the ‘80s, but the New York City-based guitarist has also forged a solo career of some note. Reissue releases of 2013's 13 and 2014's Jasper Sits Out on Lawrence English's Room40 imprint have helped raise Westberg's profile, but he hasn't been idle since they were created: 2016 saw the release of The All Most Quiet on Hallow Ground and now we have from LCR Records a four-track set of deep, long-form soundscapes collected under the title The Chance To.

Westberg effectively blurs genre lines in these pieces. Traces of minimalism emerge in the repeating figures and pulsations within “Andrea F,” but the thirteen-minute setting ventures down other rabbit holes too, ambient obviously but drone and classical as well. The most startling effect arrives eight minutes into the piece when bass figures penetrate the murk to further destabilize the already engrossed listener, and operating as a glue that helps hold the different strands together is a semi-porous coating of haze that lends the material a muffled quality. “One One” revisits the ghostly ambiance of “Andrea F” when softly moaning spectres from the spirit realm are woven into its churning, all-consuming dronescape, while the foreboding closer “Run Up Hills” ups the disorientation ante by looping fragments into a woozy ebb-and-flow reminiscent of Reich's early tape experiments Come Out and It's Gonna Rain.

Keyboards and guitar would seem to be the primary non-electronic instruments Westberg used to generate the album material, though one can never be absolutely certain about the sound sources involved when the elements are processed so extensively; that said, “Coco,” as smudged out as its sound design is, does appear to use piano and guitar as its core sound-generators. Throughout the recording, Westberg shapes his working materials with artful sensitivity and consummate care, such that no one style predominates and the various parts coalesce to form satisfyingly resolved wholes.

December 2017