If you are interested in that Rune Grammofon-centric Scandinavian scene (think Jaga Jazzist, Supersilent and Motorpsycho), you’ll have heard Stian Westerhaus: he has played in all those groups. Amputation is an interesting step for him, in that it finds him melding his often-abstract guitar with passionate vocals and grand song-structures. Interesting business, on House of Mythology.
Vinyl LP £16.99 HOM 004
180g white vinyl LP on House of Mythology.
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- Amputation by Stian Westerhus
A strange thing, this: Stian Westerhus, a collaborator saviour in Rune Grammofon-affiliates such as Supersilent, Jaga Jazzist and even the way-proggy Motorpsycho, has made a pop album. Well, sorta. Or not at all. He approaches that bracket of music but it falls apart before he can get to it, crumbling under its own weight. Westerhus has to make do with the rubble.
‘Amputation’ sees Westerhus match his abstract and uncatchable guitar movements with the vocal bravado of Justin fucking Vernon -- there isn’t a log cabin, I’ll admit, and I don’t think he’s passed into an American state of choice, but his vocals soar upwards in an urgent flurry, hoping to meet the peak before being pushed back down. “Kings Never Sleep” finishes on a grim plaster-peel of guitar soloing that would sooner recall Bill Orcutt than Bon Iver. It folds into “Sinking Ships”, and I can scarcely believe the ground Westerhus is covering: over droning cellos and tinkering submarine sounds he hums and shudders out a high-pitched warble, considering developing a song before sinking into the sea. Hey: it’s gorgeous.
Westerhus is a student of jazz, but this record sees him find bliss in other things -- namely, musical voids and the ways he can fill them up. He assembles field recordings only to isolate his production to ever-moving synths, or crawls his way from mouthfuls of ideas into distinct melodies. Actually, that’s all about “How Long”, which finds itself something like your standard Big Music pop tune for a moment, maxing out on discordance and building to the harsh noise intro of “Amputation” without thinking.
What is he doing? I don’t know. Making power electronics. Making pop music. Making ambient tracks. Deep sea diving? Hoping, in his heart of hearts, that all this sound can become friends.
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