Stian Westerhus: The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers (2012)
Two years later, if even the most intrepid explorer can be taken for granted once familiarity sets in, there's no fear of that with the equally mind-blowing The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers. If Pitch Black broke new ground, The Matriarch not only expands Westerhus' view of that terrain, it also finds (or forges) entirely new paths to hitherto unexplored territories.
Perhaps the most significant difference is where The Matriarch was recorded. Norwegian sculptor Emanuel Vigeland's Oslo mausoleum is a room that, quite simply, encourages a musician to think differently. Combining Westerhus' already expansive sonicsa mix of electronics, extended techniques, and a mindset that eschews musical orthodoxywith a room sporting a natural 20-second reverb makes The Matriarch's sound positively massive. Whether it's the bowed guitar of "The Matriarch," the processed voices of "Forever Walking Forests" or the jagged electro-centricities of "The Wrong Kind of Flowers" that ultimately resolve into a sparer coda of dark-hued beauty, Westerhus' music may stem from improvisation, but the end result shares more with contemporary classicism than anything elsethough such comparisons pale once scratching beneath the surface.
Bowed guitar dominates The Matriarch and, while it's hardly a new concept, Westerhus transcends mere gimmickry. The guitarist's ability to compose on the fly with a broad range of textures, melodic and harmonic ideationseven unexpected rhythmic twists and turnshas always revealed an underlying sense of purpose, but with the Vigeland mausoleum almost a musical partner, Westerhus can augment grander schemes with the nuanced results of slighter gestures.
Conventional constructs hold little sway in Westerhus' music. Whether striking the strings with his bow, sawing them vigorously, or somehow creating both a sustaining sonic wash and unexpected melodic motifs in real time, these nine pieces without any hat-hanging hooks or predictable formmanage to be moving and memorable. It's hard to imagine an artist evolving this rapidly, but taking the frog leaps of Pitch Black Star Spangled over Galore, and now the stunning The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers over Pitch Black, it's hard to imagine what will come next.
But it'll be worth the wait.
Track Listing: Shine; The Matriarch; Silver Sparkle Attraction; Like Passing Rain Through 9 Lives; Unchained Sanity on Broken Rain; Forever Walking Forests; Kept On Shoulders; Guiding the Pain; The Wrong Kind of Flowers.
Personnel: Stian Westerhus: guitar, voice.
Record Label: Rune Grammofon