Norman Westberg – 13

On this three track release, Norman Westberg’s work harks back to his late-90s contributions to Swans’ final (and arguably best) album Soundtracks for the Blind, and to Michael Gira’s subsequent ambient instrumental project The Body Lovers. Across the release circling rhythms and loops skate across glacial landscapes. This is a journey without the obvious markers of verse, chorus, solo, repeat, finale. Likewise there’s no tyrannous beat marking time and thumping out dominance – this is a far freer and more refreshing sleigh ride through sound. There’s some sense of narrative in the titles: the location in ‘Frostbite Falls’, the character in ‘Bunny Bill’, the mild domestic drama of ‘Oops, Wrong Hat’ – perhaps a temporary delay while preparing for a walk across this musical scene.

13 doesn’t fall into the ‘volume uber alles’ school of drone and metal ambient that has come to dominate the arena. Instead they stay light and reflective – never forcing themselves unduly upon the listener. Both ‘Frostbite Falls’ and ‘Bunny Bill’ seem to hang suspended in the air and each rewards another notch up the volume dial not by bestowing force but simply by drawing their gentle internal movements to the fore. ‘Oops, Wrong Hat’ is a more insistent combination of ringing strings but still serves only to evoke the blindness arising from thick falling snow. It would seem churlish to criticise the release for doing nothing that hasn’t been done before; what it does is effectively realised and a comfortable backdrop to hide inside.

About Nick Soulsby (46 Articles)
Nick is the author of 'I Found My Friends: the Oral History of Nirvana' (St Martins Griffin) and 'Cobain On Cobain: Interviews and Encounters' (Chicago Review Press - February 2016). He lives in Bristol.
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