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Stian Westerhus: Pitch Black Star Spangled

Reviewed By: Andrew Carver
Label: Rune Grammofon
Format: CD

Stian Westerhus is a prolific performer best known in jazz circles as a member of Jaga Jazzist and sideman to trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer. On his solo album ‘Pitch Black Star Spangled’ he seems intent on taking his guitar into a night sky of twisted howls, archaic groans and piercing squeals.

The reverberating sounds of opening track ‘Don’t Tell Me This Is Home‘ feature a violin bow on the strings, a favoured technique that also appears on ‘Emptied Hands Mirrored Softly’ to immediately set a mood of deep melancholy and solitude. Later, the sinister buzz of ‘Thy Gospel’ makes one wonder if Westerhus has been living on a steady diet of Autechre and Sunno))), then twisted the lessons learned into a single tune.

The buzz and click of ‘The Antagonist’ would be at home on the works of glitch artists like Oval, while recognizable guitar sounds, and other more tortured sounds, flow out of the beeps and scratches.

By the time ‘Pitch Black Star Spangled’ comes to an end with the sepulchral bowing of ‘Heart of Lead’ it feels like Westerhus has created a landmark in experimental guitar, one whose appeal should stretch from fans of Godspeed! You Black Emperor’s grim crescendos, Richard Youngs and the audio manipulations of Aphex Twin. It is lonely out where Westerhus lurks, but he should have company soon.

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