Norman Westberg - The Chance To

by James Gerard Rating:8 Release Date:2017-12-01
Norman Westberg - The Chance To
Norman Westberg - The Chance To

At the forefront of New York’s famed ‘no wave’ scene back in the ‘80’s, Swans spearheaded an enduring aesthetic that has inspired an untold number of bands over the past few decades.  And while the heart of Swans has always lied with frontman Michael Gira, one could argue that the ‘soul’ of the band resides in the fingers of Norman Westberg, the band’s longtime guitarist whose constant devotion to reinvention has helped propel the intrepid act to their current status as musical elder-statesmen.

As any fan of experimental music will tell you, there is a fine line between words like ‘ambient’, ‘drone’, ‘shoegaze’ and simply ‘noise’.  And while long-form, cinematic soundscapes are nothing new for those familiar with the noise-rock giants Swans, Westberg has managed to offer a new take on instrumental-guitar with his solo records.  The Chance To, Westerberg’s latest release, finds the artist treading inspired waters over the course of the albums four, epic tracks.  

Opening with the brooding, thirteen-minute “Andrea F”, Westberg employs his judiciously processed guitar to great effect, creating waves of sonic textures that calmly ebb and flow, gradually crescendoing towards the tracks third-act implosion.  Meanwhile, the staccato guitar lines that comprise “Coco” help render it the album’s most accessible composition; providing a tangible sense of melodic counterpoint for the record.

The longest song of the collection (clocking in at 13:32), “One One” does an admirable job of weaving swells of delay-induced ambiance over and under themselves, resulting in a sequence of atonal vamps.  The album closes succinctly with “Run up Hills”, a pitch-bending loop-fest that, despite it’s nearly thirteen minute length, is perhaps the most focused and concise musical idea of the bunch.  Westberg’s use of melodic overtones gives the track a tangible sense of urgency, thus providing a climactic end to The Chance To.                                                                                                                                                                     
While an obvious grab for long-time Swans fans, Norman Westberg’s The Chance To is far more than a mere ancillary release for completists, as this album is clearly for fans of all-things guitar-based ambient/drone; an enjoyably challenging record from one of indie-rock’s original 'anti' guitar heroes.

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