7

Stian Westerhus: The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Stian Westerhus: The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers Beyond his reputation as Norway's "hardest working guitarist"—an éclat supported by, amongst many others, ongoing membership in Nils Petter Molvaer's trio and assuming the producer's role for the trumpeter's Baboon Moon (Sula, 2011); collaborating with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra for Ripples, raptures and disbelief (a Molde Jazz Festival commission screaming for release); and, with Didymoi Dreams (Rune Grammofon, 2012), righting a wrong with the first recorded document of his duo with another fearless innovator, singer Sidsel Endresen—Stian Westerhus has managed to exploit the potential of his chosen instrument beyond all belief...and recognition. Even more than Galore—the guitarist's limited-run solo debut on Rune Grammofon's vinyl-only The Last Record Company imprint—Pitch Black Star Spangled (Rune Grammofon, 2010) was, quite simply, the kind of record that nobody with a mere 31 years on the planet had the right to make.

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 sonics—a mix of electronics, extended techniques, and a mindset that eschews musical orthodoxy—with 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 else—though 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 ideations—even unexpected rhythmic twists and turns—has 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 form—manage 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.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Rune Grammofon


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Disappeared Behind the Sun CD/LP/Track Review Disappeared Behind the Sun
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 29, 2017
Read Innate CD/LP/Track Review Innate
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: March 29, 2017
Read The Seasons CD/LP/Track Review The Seasons
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 29, 2017
Read Planets + Persona CD/LP/Track Review Planets + Persona
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 29, 2017
Read avantNOIR CD/LP/Track Review avantNOIR
by Nicola Negri
Published: March 29, 2017
Read Peace and Love: A Tribute to Will Connell CD/LP/Track Review Peace and Love: A Tribute to Will Connell
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 28, 2017
Read "Secular Hymns" CD/LP/Track Review Secular Hymns
by John Eyles
Published: September 10, 2016
Read "The Hidden Notes - Spirit Of Adventure" CD/LP/Track Review The Hidden Notes - Spirit Of Adventure
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "Loafer's Hollow" CD/LP/Track Review Loafer's Hollow
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Rehab Reunion" CD/LP/Track Review Rehab Reunion
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 11, 2016
Read "Beginning of A Memory" CD/LP/Track Review Beginning of A Memory
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 15, 2016
Read "Wrong is Right" CD/LP/Track Review Wrong is Right
by Eyal Hareuveni
Published: June 4, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!