Norman Westberg – After Vacation

After Vacation sips a strange cocktail in a dark paradise. The brooding guitar has a drunken heaviness to it, streaked in the blood-red colours of a sunset as it crushes itself against the sea. An underlying, unparalleled force is waking up, being summoned (via guitar) from the depths of this golden isle. After Vacation is an intoxicating aural drug, and it’s enough to make the listener swoon in the airless evening heat. Its mysticism is what makes it beautiful, but it’s dark. So dark.

The guitar’s tone scents the air with an illegal brand of perfume bought on the musical black market. Beneath its calm, spaced-out exterior, the rolling drones are close to erupting. That strange, Lovecraftian force is rising from its slumber. Deep within the obscuring drone, the guitar is alive, and it’s on the prowl, evoking some of that black magic.

Norman Westberg is known for his unique and innovative approach to guitar in the band SWANS, and he takes his playing further into the unknown with this solo release. After Vacation touches down as the band’s current tour ends, but this is a record of beginning afresh. Westberg’s sonic range has once more inflated. Through delay, reverb, and other treatments, his guitar morphs into something otherworldly. The mood is selected through those sharp, tangy notes, which spray-paint the atmosphere in violent reds and bruised oranges. A tone similar to Lord of the Flies sits queasily in the stomach of the music, burning Inca-like colours into the sizzling sand until it’s as red as the flag of Peru, South America.

In reality, its location remains a mystery. Watery tones float on the surface of the sea, cooling the music down. The reverb is turned all the way up, entering hall-of-fame levels where the guitar is utterly transformed, morphing and transcending its shell of six strings and swapping open chords for more exotic incantations. Westberg’s music is full of space, too. Echoing notes and deeper chords swell up, producing beautiful effects, coming from somewhere distant. It’s an unforgettable vacation to a dark corner of the planet, where violent rituals are practiced, bejewelled masks are worn, and strange gods are worshipped. You won’t see this in the brochure, that’s for sure. The sunset bleeds red 24/7, and its music is both soothing and visceral. Produced by Lawrence English, After Vacation leans into unexplained topography, and like those post-vacation blues, the music clings to the listener long after departure, and long after the plane has landed.

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1 Comment

  1. It’s great that this is about the first time that Norman takes his recordings as the ‘raw materials’ – instead of recording one long take, it’s built from many, and therefore a different type of work altogether…

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