Terrence Dixon
Ten Favourite Labels 2012

1982 + BJ Cole
Oren Ambarchi
Alexander Berne
Born Gold
Carlyle & Cox
Kate Carr and Gail Priest
Paul Corley
Roland Etzin
Yuichiro Fujimoto
Godspeed You! Bl. Emp.
Ivar Grydeland
Sophie Hutchings
Kane Ikin
Jeanne Jolly
Paul Mac
Michael Mayer
David Michael
David Newlyn
No Regular Play
Oskar Offermann
Olan Mill
Roomful of Teeth
Bruno Sanfilippo
Valgeir Sigurdsson
The Sleep Of Reason
Jessica Sligter
Slow Dancing Society
Prins Thomas
The Use Of Ashes
Maarten van der Vleuten
Stian Westerhus
Wires Under Tension
Woolfy vs. Projections

William Basinski

Elektro Guzzi
Porya Hatami
Maps & Diagrams
Stephan Mathieu
Michael Trommer

Stian Westerhus: The Matriarch and The Wrong Kind of Flowers
Rune Grammofon

When is a guitar not a guitar? That philosophical conundrum receives a thorough going-over in this arresting forty-minute recording by Stian Westerhus. Using nothing more than his own guitar and vocals, the Norwegian sound sculptor creates eerie panoramas of sound, such that The Matriarch and The Wrong Kind of Flowers, Westerhus's third album, more resembles what a collection of nightmarish Penderecki and Ligeti pieces might sound like had they been put through an electronic blender.

The opening track's resemblance to Pink Floyd's “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is purely intentional, one presumes, given that Westerhus uses the title “Shine.” The limpid opening solo statement in particular nods in the direction of the Floyd piece, but otherwise Westerhus does what he does elsewhere: generates sounds that suggest anything but guitar. Sometimes he sounds like a shimmering harmonium, at other times an entire string section or second cousin to Norwegian Hardanger fiddle player Nils Økland.

“The Matriarch” resembles a spectral classical setting brought to life by a baroque chamber ensemble, while “Silver Sparkle Attraction” sounds like an orchestral section of cellists attempting to resurrect long-dead spirits. Ghostly string swoops and percussive knocking add to the material's haunted ambiance, after which crystalline bowed tones work themselves into a frenzy during “Like Passing Rain Through 9 Lives,” even if the piece's less hyperactive passages are just as harrowing in a wrist-slitting sense of the word (how fitting it is that Westerhus recorded most of the material at a tomb, specifically the Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum in Oslo, also notable for its huge amount of natural reverb). He uses his voice sparingly, though it figures prominently into the opening moments of “Forever Walking Forests” where it's afterward joined by shuddering woodwind and high-pitched string wails. For once, describing someone as a one-man orchestra isn't far off the mark.

November 2012