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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stian Westerhus - The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers (Rune Grammofon, 2012) [part 2 of 3]

By Paolo Casertano

A note from the author: I lied, no rating yet... 

Part 2: Studio

I take here the opportunity to list some ongoing projects Stian Westerhus is involved in.

The Puma trio, with already three releases under its belt, represents in my opinion the enlargement of Westerhus' solo potentialities, as you may infer from their last “Half Nelson Courtship” in which the role of the guitarist as a leader has become more evident.

A duo with Sidsel Endresen - “Didymoi Dreams” - recently released on Rune Grammofon, an interesting document of his live performance, on which Westerhus explorations are accompanied by her acclaimed voice.

There is also the live and studio partnership with Nils Petter Molvær with his trio, the only collaboration where Westerhus acts as a real sideman so far.  It is is interesting to notice the influences the young artist will have on the music of the great trumpeter, who is a seminal figure in the manipulation of jazz sounds through electronics. I bet something will happen.

And then again there is the successful union with the drummer Kenneth Kapstad from Motorpsycho that has given birth to the Monolithic Project. The unquestionable “metal” nature of the duo is once again the proof of Westerhus' incompatibility with categorization.

Other projects worth mentioning are his brief involvement with Jaga Jazzist, the destructive and noisy interaction with Lasse Marhaug with Puma, the prestigious work commissioned for the Throndheim Jazz Orchestra during the 2011 Molde Jazz Festival, demonstrating that the artist feels at ease with composition and conduction too.

Then there's this really thrilling rumor of a collaboration with Helge Sten from Supersilent. I had once the chance to see him play guitar (his real instrument) rather than working his usual racks of electronics.  I haven’t slept for three nights. Will I survive their collaboration?

Finally, after this long idolizing portrait, just allow me to mention his recent and questionable - just in my opinion - participation to the last work of a band called Ulver, exponent of the never extinguished Scandinavian black metal (but I would say hard-rock as well) branch. Hardly digestible. Our guy definitely needs to play … just as a shark can’t quit swimming.

In a recent comment to Dan Sorrell’s great review (and forgive me if I quote myself quoting someone else who is quoting still another person) we discussed the faculty of a musician to express his musical concepts while improvising within the boundaries of the genre he has chosen. Or better, using the “grammatical rules” established and consolidated by the musicians moving in the related “container”. Now, clearly not everything Westerhus does in his performances, whether live or recorded, is totally improvised. He has a plot and some anchor points to reach, but nothing seems to be already written between a point and the following one. Looks like a climber on a mountain: he knows some places in the ascent are safer than others because someone has been there before. They’re good to take a breath and look up toward the peak. And then to choose the most adventurous and maybe the as yet undiscovered path to reach the next stop. The point is that for Westerhus limits and boundaries are not given by the genre but by the instrument and devices he’s using to achieve his aim.

I’m probably wrong but I’m persuaded that in fifty years time (maybe less and maybe not me, but you never know…) we’re going to speak of him as we speak now of Derek Bailey and his nodal role in the twentieth century guitar.

The album review, it's coming …
        … to be continued later on this blog ...

© stef