Talvihorros and Valles

Bass Clef
William Brittelle
Calvin Cardioid
John Daly
Delta Funktionen
DJ W!ld
Petar Dundov
Kyle Bobby Dunn
Hildur Gudnadottir
Kristian Heikkila
Stephen Hummel
I've Lost
Jamie Jones
Monika Kruse
Deniz Kurtel
Motion Sickness T. Travel
Maayan Nidam
Alex Niggemann
Padang Food Tigers
The Pirate Ship Quintet
Plvs Vltra
Sankt Otten
Simon Scott
Wadada Leo Smith
Robert Scott Thompson
Wes Willenbring

Compilations / Mixes
Air Texture II
Nic Fanciulli
GoGo Get Down

Gone Beyond / Mumbles
Maps and Diagrams
Time Dilation

Wes Willenbring: Weapons Reference Manual
Hidden Shoal

Presented in a dark industrial grey cover, Weapons Reference Manual, Wes Willenbring's third recording for Hidden Shoal, arrives with a clear sense of foreboding, a mood reinforced on aural grounds by the oily pool of black grime that floods its guitar-fueled dronescape “Dreams and Schemes.” It's a provocative and challenging opener by the now-San Francisco-based Willenbring, a way of stating that anyone climbing aboard will do so on his terms and no one else's. It's a stance borne out of artistic conviction, however, not defiance or arrogance—the sound of Willenbring following his instincts where they naturally lead. It's interesting to hear where his muse takes him on the seven-track, forty-minute outing: the epic, fifteen-minute meditation “Quaaludes,” for example, is powered by distortion-laden electric guitar playing of the kind we associate with Fear Falls Burning and thisquietarmy, while “Scene Missing” plunges us into a seven-minute black pit of vaporous soundscaping that invites comparison to Deathprod.

Light-dark conflict appears to be the album's primary theme; it's certainly one Willenbring returns to throughout. On a number of occasions, scattered moments of illumination arise, bringing with them some tentative glimmer of hope, until they're slowly subsumed by darkness. Though the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar suggests “People Disappear Every Day” might offer some degree of peacefulness, it's gradually overwhelmed by a swelling mass of granular fuzz that recasts the piece as a drone-like reprise of the opener. In similar manner, the jittery guitar figure that introduces “Consequences of Recklessness” is slowly buried under a growing field of metallic tones, while the pretty arpeggios with which “The Worst Part of You is the Best Thing You Have” begins gradually lose their definition. Arriving as they do after the amorphous sludge of “Quaaludes,” the piano chords of “Ashes” almost startle when they resonate so clearly. In toto, Weapons Reference Manual presents a grittier and rawer side of Willenbring than has been heard before, and the move isn't unwelcome. His decision to offset the soothing sweetness so typical of of ambient music with the corrosive effects of effects-heavy guitarscaping proves to be an effective strategy on this latest chapter in his still-evolving story.

June 2012