NORMAN WESTBERG – MRI

Room40

Ask me about Michael Gira’s Swans and you’ll receive a blank stare. Believe it or not, I have never tackled their discography in spite of the group’s renown (not that the will is not there; seems like I always lack the necessary time). But feed me a good, solid album of droning guitars and I’ll be sold straight away (well, almost). Westberg, guitarist for the aforementioned ensemble, offers three lengthy meditations. Two of them – the title track and “410Stairs” – had previously appeared on a private release; you can read instrumentation and general concepts at this link. The third segment “Lost Mine” is instead dated 2015. At any rate, all are perfect for the scope: namely, forgetting everything else at least for a little while.

Conceived on relatively poor machines, this material is characterized by a tangible analog griminess which definitely contributes to an overall effect of “impure pulse”. The starting chords are simple and effective; the processing, comprehensive of an abundance of cascading loops, does the rest. Massive undulations get reflected in every corner of the room (or head, if you’re not using speakers: a rare case of drone music working fine both ways). A straightforwardness of meaning that tends to nourish the listeners, rather than disrespect them. Westberg doesn’t appear as the kind of guy who pushes a button then goes for a coffee; these pieces hide hours of study on various types of resonance, including the psychological implications. Either you perceive the guitar or not, the ultimate result is “harmony”; we need that as oxygen, nowadays. Serious supporters of, say, Peter Wright and Aidan Baker – and, in a way, Charlemagne Palestine – are surely going to approve the beneficial waves transmitted by MRI.

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