Norman Westberg is best known to many for his work as a guitarist in Swans, and indeed he’s been present right throughout the band’s existence, from their debut 1983 album ‘Filth’ right through to Michael Gira’s contemporary reactivation of the outfit. Compared to the crushing and crescendoing dynamics of Swans though, this latest solo album from Westberg on Room40 ’13’ couldn’t be any different. Originally released in 2013 by Westberg as a handmade limited edition of 75 copies, the three expansive tracks collected here see him using outboard processing to transform bowed bass, acoustic guitar and electric guitar into drone-based ambience that feels as sprawling as it does minimalist.
Opener ‘Frostbite Falls’ most evokes the atmosphere of gathering stormclouds here as brooding bass drones ebb and flow against slowed down trails of bowed instrumentation and ringing, delayed-out harmonics, the entire track moving with the pace of a glacier as shards of brighter melodic colours start to bleed in towards the second half with an almost orchestral presence. ‘Bunny Bill’ meanwhile conjures up a considerably more gentle atmosphere as warm layers of droning loops cycle and interweave with each other in slow motion against woozy subtle pitchshifting effects, brighter shades of treated guitar fading in like sunlight across an almost still lake, before ‘Oops, Wrong Hat’ brings a sense of cinematic tension to the fore as shimmering processed guitar elements ripple against cocoon-like layers of droning ambience, in what’s easily this album’s most wide-eyed moment. A consistently engrossing offering from Westberg, ’13’ definitely deserves a larger listenership upon this welcome reissue from Room40.