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Stian Westerhus & Pale Horses

Stian Westerhus & Pale Horses – Maelstrom (March 28, 2014)

   Stian Westerhus & Pale Horses — Maelstrom 
λ→   Většina písní si dobře posedí v dobré lázni střihů a smyček, glitchy sampletroniky. Formát je  vlastní reakcí na tradiční písně, Stiana zajímají spíše lineární průběhy než tradiční poezie. Jeho kytarou je stále možné produkovat fascinující záblesky osvětlením porozumění a pochopení, pěkně do hloubky. Ale je to zejména emocionální síla písní, odvolání k citu — srdci tak, aby to ještě hlava pobrala. To je skutečné zaměření alba.
Born: 2 April 1979, Steinkjer, Nord–Trøndelag
Location: Oslo, Norway
Album release: March 28, 2014
Record Label: Rune Grammofon
Duration:     53:14
1. Don’t Say That You Care     5:53
2. Nights and Sleepless Days     9:30
3. Bed on Fire     6:15
4. On and On     8:12
5. Times Like These     6:12
6. Chasing Hills     9:04
7. Maelstrom     8:08
Joe Banks, May 20th, 2014 05:21
λ→  Stian Westerhus is a Norwegian avant-jazz guitarist, and for most ears I'm guessing, the epitome of a "challenging" player — my only previous encounter with him was via the disquieting soundscapes of his 2010 album Pitch Black Star Spangled, and as this clip from a BBC Radio 3 session shows, he manages to do everything with a guitar except play it conventionally. So to say that this new album with his newly–formed band Pale Horses is a change in direction is a bit of an understatement.
Having decided to use his improvisational style within more traditional melodic structures, Westerhus has produced an album that re–invents 21st century guitar–based power balladry, and is often nothing short of astonishing. Not only that, but he's also stepped up to the mic and revealed himself to be a singer of both subtlety and range, genuinely inhabiting the songs rather than just emoting emptily over them. In fact, Maelstrom is just as challenging as his previous albums, but in the way that it demands complete engagement from the listener rather than because of its sonic palette.
λ→  That's not to say there’s nothing interesting for the ear to latch onto — most of the songs here sit in a sound bath of cut–ups and loops, glitchy sampletronica that shifts restlessly like the unquiet ghosts of dead media, while Westerhus’ guitar can still produce mesmerising flashes of lightening. But it’s the emotional pull of the songs, an appeal to the heart as much as the head, that’s the real focus of the album.
So yes, power ballads. There’s no getting away from the fact that Radiohead are the most obvious precursor to this type of deconstructed–rock–band–plus–oblique–passion approach, and Westerhus certainly comes close to emulating Thom Yorke’s vocal delivery in places. Goddammit, there’s even hints of U2 and Coldplay in here (albeit the bits you secretly like when no one’s looking). But Westerhus and band make the format their own by treating the songs as linear progressions rather than traditional verse/chorus arrangements, letting them go where they need to go in a manner that recalls later period Talk Talk.
λ→  Opening track ‘Don’t Say That You Care’ is a good illustration of this. Over disembodied woodwind, Westerhus starts in torch singer mode, his voice similar in tone to the world–weary richness of The Blue Nile's Paul Buchanan. But as the song gradually grows in volume and intensity, the drums clattering and rumbling with increasing force, Westerhus starts to climb to a pitch of near–hysteria that recalls Billy Mackenzie in full flight, repeating the title over and over again against a barrage of majestic guitar strafing until the song suddenly cuts dead. Similarly, 'Nights And Sleepless Days' begins against a background of misfiring electronica, Westerhus deploying a serene falsetto this time, before a minor key riff introduces a note of unease. There's another big build that finally gives way to glorious sheets of sunburst guitar scree tumbling down a vast mountainside into darkness below, the final section of the song consisting of just sombre piano chords and a resigned, sepulchral vocal.
λ→  'Bed On Fire' follows this pattern, the machine whirrings of the intro mangling Westerhus' voice, initially resisting meaningful communication, before resolving into another disconsolate hymn. Then sure enough, the song begins to rise as drums and a nagging riff emerge from the flames, the guitar gradually dissolving into Fripp–esque liquescence before a coda of eerie female choir. In contrast, 'On And On' is the most conventionally structured song on the album, its mid–paced, menacing groove recalling Queens Of The Stone Age (increasingly a key touchstone — no pun intended — for sophisticated modern rock), Westerhus sounding like a dead ringer for Josh Homme. With its shimmering quicksilver guitars and big gated drums a la Collins, there's a parallel universe somewhere in which this is a hit record.
λ→  'Times Like These' takes us back to the tech age slow burn of the opening tracks, its rough assembly of woodwind, bells, harps and strings suggesting a confluence with These New Puritans. “The future’s rolling down the hill — what have we done for it?” intones Westerhus, as the song mutates into a dense, gothic swagger. 'Chasing Hills' really hits the Radiohead button, a slightly creepy confessional that could easily have been a centrepiece track on Amnesiac beside the likes of 'Pyramid Song'. When it kicks in, the guitar is like a hulking mechanical beast of burden pulling itself through a portent–ridden landscape. Finally, we get to 'Maelstrom' itself, Westerhus standing on the deck of a becalmed vessel in the eye of a storm, guitars creaking like rigging in the wind as the ship's bells ring out. As a vortex of voices and drums starts to churn, this is the album at its most avant-garde, the instrumentation and vocal recalling the Scott Walker of Tilt. The final crescendo breaks with Westerhus's angelic voice riding the crest of an advancing black wall of the four elements before the storm blows itself out for good.
λ→  This is an expansive, Romantic album that creates the feeling that something extraordinary could happen at any moment. It also unselfconsciously takes itself seriously — nothing is in quotation marks here, which saves it from those occasions when it threatens to become overblown. By coming out of leftfield, Stian Westerhus & Pale Horses have created what will surely be one of this year's most artistically impressive and satisfying contemporary rock albums. :: http://thequietus.com/
λ→  Stian Westerhus is best known as one of Northern Europe’s most fascinating abstract guitar stylists. His recent album Didymoi Dreams with vocalist Sidsel Endresen was a unique pairing of extreme guitar abuse with gibbering vocal explosions. As well as collaborations with Puma, Nils Petter Molvær, Jaga Jazzist, the Britten Sinfonia and others, he has released three acclaimed solo albums on Rune Grammofon since 2009.
In Pale Horses, an electronic rock trio formed with keyboardist Øystein Moen (Jaga Jazzist) and drummer/percussionist Erland Dahlen, songs are given the freedom to ebb, flow, elongate and contract, much like a more improvised set. Breaking out of a verse–chorus mould, debut album Maelstrom is a deluge of fluid and highly emotive tracks that rely on the superb musicianship and unforgettable vocals of the leader, who proves himself capable of expressing pain and joy in equal measure.
λ→  Perhaps the most obvious similarities — surprisingly — are with the experimental side of Radiohead and Coldplay, but you’ll also hear traces of Scottish bedroom romantics The Blue Nile and the psychedelic solemnity of late Talk Talk. A track like ‘Bed On Fire’, which rises from subtle digital textures to a full–on guitar solo, fully reveals these players’ exploratory backgrounds; while ‘Chasing Hills’ might have sat comfortably on Radiohead’s leftfield–swerving Kid A.
λ→  Spellemannprisen 2012, in the class Jazz together witn Sidsel Endresen, for the album Didymoi Dreams
λ→  Westerhus has a bachelor in jazz from Middlesex University under Stuart Hall, and a master from the Jazz program at Trondheim Musikkonservatorium, (NTNU, 2005). On his latest album Didymoi Dreams (2012) is his debut duo with experimental jazz singer Sidsel Endresen, we experience insane guitar rhythms meeting with a gibberish vocal world.
Solo albums:
2009: Galore (Rune Grammofon/The Last Record Company)
2010: Pitch Black Star Spangled (Rune Grammofon)
2012: The Matriarch and the Wrong Kind of Flowers (Rune Grammofon)
2014: Maelstrom (Rune Grammofon), as S.W. & Pale Horses
Label: http://www.runegrammofon.com/
John Fordham, theguardian.com, Thursday 22 May 2014 23.30 BS; Score: ***
λ→  http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/may/22/stian-westerhus-pale-horses-maelstrom-review
Reviews RCD2156
λ→  This is an expansive, Romantic album that creates the feeling that something extraordinary could happen at any moment. It also unselfconsciously takes itself seriously — nothing is in quotation marks here, which saves it from those occasions when it threatens to become overblown. By coming out of leftfield, Stian Westerhus & Pale Horses have created what will surely be one of this year's most artistically impressive and satisfying contemporary rock albums. The Quietus (UK)
λ→  It´s rare that Rune Grammofon release anything with what you might call hit potential, which is why this debut from Stian Westerhus´s new outfit is such an ear–opener. Together with keyboardist Oystein Moen and drummer Erland Dahlen, the guitarist has created an album of widescreen avant pop whose songs could conceivably fit snugly on mainstream radio, even with its subtly experimental approach to song and texture. The Blue Nile are probably the most obvious reference point, especially given that Westerhus´s voice is a dead ringer for Paul Buchanan´s. There´s even a touch of U2 circa "The Unforgettable Fire" to these emotional epics, which, along with Westerhus´s open–throated vocal, is likely to raise eyebrows. The Wire (UK)
λ→  His vocals sit somewhere between Thom Yorke and The Blue Nile´s Paul Buchanan. It suits the fraught, angts–driven sound emanating from the Pale Horses project and its prog-inspired vocabulary. It´s a suite of songs that generally avoid the usual verse/chorus trap by taking a more circuitous and sometime occluded route, there are nevertheless times when "Maelstrom"´s tumultuos rolls spill and crash into something approximating stadium swagger. They generate a carnous, My Bloody Valentine–style industrial thrum refracted through the widescreen prism of Simple Mind–type sonics, and it´s remarkably accessible. If you´ve not encountered Westerhus´ impassioned playing before you´ll find this isn´t a bad place to begin.
Prog (UK)
λ→  Ja zum Henker, das sind ja ganz neue Töne! STIAN WESTERHUS singt!! Gleich als Auftakt des mit PALE HORSES eingespielten Albums Maelstrom (RCD 2156) croont er inbrünstig "Don't say you care", einen Stoßseufzer, den Erland Dahlen und Øystein Moen hochdra­matisch betrommeln und bedröhnen. Dem folgt 'Nights and sleepless days' als ein Schmachtfetzen mit Gitarrengeheul und Synthiefeuer­werk, mit finalem Katzenjammer eines rückkehrwilligen Lovers, dem die Zernichtung droht. Seele brennt, 'Bed on fire', Zeit, die Uhr zurück zu drehen, um vergessene Möglichkeiten in einem zweiten Versuch zu nutzen. Nach drei geisterhaften Minuten setzt sich wieder der Mahl­strom des Lebens vorwärts in Gang, mit stöhnender Gitarre und jaulendem Moening. Moog, Mellotron, Prophet? Egal, was er da traktiert, es mündet im Ahhh eines Chores. Und es geht 'On and on', mit bebenden Saiten und traumfängerischem Gesang. Dahlen klopft einen schicksalsschweren Beat, Moen pingt spitze Pianonoten, Westerhus wird niedergedrückt vom Gefühl, verraten worden zu sein. Von den Herzfasern bis zu den Gitarrensaiten ist alles schmerzlich durchzittert. Dass man von einem Traum an der Nase geführt wird, und dennoch nicht davon lassen kann. Mit Kopfstimme und schmach­tender Intensität gibt Westerhus alles, um mit dieser elegischen Hymnik erhört zu werden, auch wenn der dunkle Gang dahin lang ist und gespenstisch. Dahlen dengelt, Moen schraubt am Moog, das Stimmband rollt sich wieder rückwärts. Bei 'Chasing Hills' wächst bei Westerhus die Hoffnung, aus dem Jammertal endlich auf höheres Terrain zu gelangen. Der Beat ist monoton, aber stetig, die bluesige Orgel summt treppaufwärts und die Gitarre steigt Schritt für Schritt mit, energisch vorwärtsgestoßen von Dahlens Trommelschlägen. Höher, immer höher, und nach einer trillernden Kulmination erschöpft schwankend zwischen Bassregister und Kopfstimme. Das Titelstück kommt da schon wie von der anderen Seite, geisterhaft und sublim schillernd, der Gesang durchscheinend. Und dann breitet Westerhus die Schwingen und überlässt sich dem Wind und Dahlens rollendem Tamtam, die Gitarre eine heulende und trillernde Ekstase in den höchsten Tönen, Moen ein einziges Fauchen!!! Bis die Schläge einer Armensünderglocke diesen Liebestraum, diesen Liebeswahn, ausläuten. Phantastischer geht's kaum. Bad Alchemy (DE)
λ→  ...Nun verblüfft Westerhus erneut, indem er in seinem Trio mit Keyboarder Øystein Moen und Schlagzeuger Erland Dahlen ein astreines Rockalbum vorlegt, auf dem er auch als Sänger hervortritt.„There must be another way“ raunt er im ersten Stück und demonstriert in der folgenden knappen Stunde, dass da schon lange noch eine andere Seite in ihm auf ihre Erweckung gewartet hatte... ...Zunächst denkt man vielleicht an eine Weiterführung des Art Rock, wie er weiland in King Crimson seinen Höhepunkt gefunden hatte, hört Momente, die an Coldplay oder Radiohead erinnern, oder wundert sich über Parallelen zu den späten Alben von Talk Talk in Westerhus’ insistierendem Gesang. Irgendwann aber ist das alles egal, denn man ist dem Suggestiven dieser Musik verfallen, deren dogmenfreie Kraft und Wucht bei jedem Hören wächst. Man hört Themen, die sich einfräsen, Finesse und immensen Druck verbindende vollkommen unverbrauchte Gitarrenchorusse, Keyboardschwaden und ein zwischen Brutalität und Drive treibendes Schlagzeug, das die Ereignisse steigert und steigert. Schlichte Dreiminutenhits hört man nicht auf dieser potenziellen Lieblingsplatte....  Leipziger Volkszeitung (DE)
λ→  Der Norweger Stian Westerhus zählt zu Europas Ausnahmegitarristen in — ja, welchem Genre eigentlich? Wer ihn im letzten Jahr im Duett in einem unter die Haut gehenden Gitarren–Noise mit der abstrakte Laute formulierenden Vokalistin Sidsel Endresen auf dem Moers–Festival erlebt hat, seine Kollaborationen mit Nils Petter Molvaer oder Jaga Jazzist kennt, freut sich über die gelungene Volte, wenn Westerhus jetzt im Elektronik–Rock–Trio Pale Horses (mit Schlagzeuger ErlandDahlen und Keyboarder Oystein Moen) seine Musik etwas traditioneller strukturiert und erdet, aber die entstandenen Tracks dann doch wunderbar zum Fliegen bringt. Nicht überraschend, dass dann die experimentelle Seite von Radiohead oder die psychedelisch anmutenden Spätwerke von Talk Talk hörbar mit im Raum stehen.
Klenkes (DE)
λ→  Three musicians at work here: Stian Westerhus (guitar, vocals), Øystein Moen (keyboards) and Erland Dahlen (drums, percussion). Westerhus is known for his abstract guitar playing, like for example on ‘Didymoi Dreams’ an album with vocalist Sidsel Endresen. Among his collaborations are projects with Puma, Nils Petter Molvær, Jaga Jazzist, the Britten Sinfonia, etc. The three already played together in Puma. Moen is also member of Jaga Jazzist, and Westerhus once guested on one of their albums. I guess with this new release they wanted to move more towards straight rock. As Puma and other projects show also influences of jazz and improvisation. But when I say rock, I mean rock of a particular kind.  The pieces on this album are best described as ballads or songs, featuring engaged singing by Westerhus. They pick up where bands like Coldplay and Radiohead stop. Music that is bombastic, but not in a negative sense, as this music is also very emotional. Experimental, moving between song and soundtexture. Vital Weekly (NE)
λ→  Allerede på åpningskuttet «Don‘t Say That You Care» er det nesten som han synger seg i transe, der han repeterer og repeterer tittelfrasen, og presser stemmen mot grensen av yteevnen. Ikke en sånn «gitarist prøver å synge»–stemme heller, men en skikkelig klangrik, vakker stemme med stort register, fra malmfull grumling til lys falsett… Sjangeren er vanskelig å definere, men jazz er det i grunnen ikke, selv om det i partier minner om Chasers-trioen til Terje Rypdal. Det er tydelige innslag av britisk kunstpop, og dragninger mot progrock. Ofte låter det helt gigantisk — de er ikke redde for å dra på, i låter som «Bed On Fire», eller det avsluttende tittelsporet, som svinger mellom store høyder og mørke dyp… dette er et like vellykket som uventet steg fra en artist som hele tida passer på at vi ikke helt vet hvor vi har ham. 5/6.
Dagsavisen (NO)
λ→  Gitararbeidet hans er det fascinerende bakteppet som hele tiden skifter form og farge, mens den emosjonelle og uttrykksfulle er limet. Westerhus høres ut som en krysning mellom Thom Yorke, Nick Cave og Josh Homme der han veksler mellom crooning, falsett og mørk murring. Den største overraskelsen er egentlig hvor tilgjengelig det låter. Han har en åpenbar popsensibilitet som han forener med sin hang til å lage bevrende og innfløkte lydkollasjer. En mer rustikk utgave av Radiohead på sitt mest eksperimentelle kan være en OK ledesnor... Glem konvensjonelle strukturer, her er det bare å la seg lede ut i fristelse. 5/6. Dagbladet (NO)
λ→  Når altmuliggitaristen Stian Westerhus starter rockeband, er resultatet tungt, mørkt og deilig alvorlig. "Maelstrom" er en massiv opplevelse som krever god musikalsk fordøyelse. Det er storslått og sentimentalt, i lange og komplekse sanger. Westerhus er overalt i lydbildet med sin stemme og gitar, og Moen og Dahlen blir til tider redusert til komp, men det er også sammen med nettopp dette kompet at Westerhus får så mye ut av de mange ideene og mulighetene. I mylderet av referanser klarer bandet å skape noe som gir lytteren inntrykk av at de strekker seg mot grensene for hva et rockeband skal foreta seg — og, på sitt beste, ut over disse grensene. Morgenbladet (NO)
λ→  Stian Westerhus er en virkelig innovativ norsk gitarist, som de siste årene har vist en vilje til originalitet og variasjon, uventede utbrudd og vridde atmosfærer, som svært få kan matche. Her begir han seg inn i en mer konkret rock–variant, som bare innimellom berører ytterkantene av ekstremmusikken og mest av alt bygger på drivende rytmer, suggerende space–rock og svært solid samspill... "Maelstrom" kan fort bli en framtidig referanse, som et eksempel på musikere som utforsker rommet i sangene, og som skaper et stadig ekspanderende univers av melodilinjer, lyd–massiver og genuint poetiske partier. Dette albumet har klassiker–kvaliteter, det blir mer interessant i takt med antall gjennomhøringer. Det er i det hele tatt en av disse sjeldne platene som knapt slutter å vokse. Klassekampen (NO)
λ→  http://thequietus.com
λ→  http://www.theguardian.com
λ→  http://nordische-musik.de
λ→  http://www.sound-and-image.de
λ→  http://www.plattentests.de
λ→  http://www.musikreviews.de
λ→  http://www.jazzcity.de
λ→  http://www.ragazzi-music.de
λ→  http://www.dieaufhebung.de
λ→  http://dereksmusicblog.wordpress.com
λ→  http://www.side2.no
λ→  http://dusken.no
λ→  http://www.adressa.no
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stianwesterhussolo
Agent Jolanda Vujasinovic @ artribute GmbH & Co., Berlin, Phone: +49 (0) 30 2408828 — 19 or +49 (0) 30 2408828 — 28. E-mail:jolanda.vujasinovic@artribute.de
Website: http://stianwesterhus.com/Wordpress/

Stian Westerhus & Pale Horses