Personnel: Stian Westerhus (vocals, guitar).
Audio Mixer: Stian Westerhus.
Recording information: Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum; The Best Studio, Oslo.
This is an astonishing album by one of the very few guitarists who can truly be characterized as original. Although Stian Westerhus joins a fairly long list of guitarists who refuse to be bound by the conventions of traditional plucking-and-strumming technique (think of Fred Frith, Hans Reichel, Paolo Angeli), his sound is completely unique. One key to his personal voice seems to be a primary concern with musicality rather than sound itself; whereas Frith, for instance, takes infectious delight in the sheer variety of noises he can make when taking the "guitars-on-the-table" approach, Westerhus seems focused primarily on making recognizable music. He uses all kinds of extended techniques in pursuing his musical goals, but he never gets the technique confused with the goal. Thus, on this album, you encounter passages that are sweetly melancholy and contemplative alongside others that are monstrous and terrifying; enormous sonic chasms open beneath your feet, monsters emerge and roar in your face, and then pastoral vistas open up before you with singing birds and budding flowers. (In fairness, though, what you mostly get are roaring monsters.) While every track here can fairly be characterized as "challenging," it's also true that all are truly beautiful, each in a slightly different way. The album was recorded in the Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum in Oslo, a sonic space renowned for its natural 20-second reverb, and that effect is well utilized throughout. This album may not be for everyone, but for those with adventurous ears it will be a revelation. ~ Rick Anderson
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