Stian Westerhus

Pitch Black Star Spangled

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The second solo release by Stian Westerhus further confirms both his interest, and that of the Rune Grammofon label, in exploring the idea of what jazz can mean to new limits. Pitch Black Star Spangled, its very title suggestive of a jumble of approaches, could just as easily have the label of dark ambient or experimental or whatever else might apply. From the start and the sawing arc of feedback on "Don't Tell Me This is Home," Westerhus seems intent on ignoring an easy label. If the initial blasts of the album seem overwhelming, the quiet, focused tones he creates for the start and center of "Sing with Me Somehow" aim more at a fragile beauty, as does the drone-touched flow of "Empty Hands Mirrored Softly," which feels less like guitar and more like a sarangi or sitar. At other extremes, as with much of the 12-minute long title track and the entirety of "Music for Leaving," among others, he more readily compares to the most open-ended electronic stutter and buzz approach of someone like Loren Mazzacane Connors. Where he is arguably his most traditional, he always seems to find other possibilities: the central bass-heavy groove of "Thy Gospel" could be something from 1955, but with the screech of extra guitar noises eventually supplanting it entirely, is something of an unsettled meditation, free jazz-inspired possible logical conclusion. One also has to credit him for a sense of humor that would result in a song title like "Trailer Trash Ballad," even if (or especially because) the music suggests more of a yearning epic release somewhere in a blasted American Southwest.

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