Westerman - Ark - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Westerman - Ark

by Howard Scott Rating:9 Release Date:2018-11-09
Westerman - Ark
Westerman - Ark

I don’t like to begin a review of a new recording by telling everyone what I didn’t like about it, but in the case of Westerman’s latest release “Ark” I am going to make an exception. The main disappointment for me with “Ark”, is that there just isn’t enough of it!  At a bit over twelve minutes long, the four cut EP whets the appetite with superbly crafted synth-pop, but then ruthlessly leaves us all hungry for more.

A full ten-song LP may have ended as sensory overload, so perhaps Westerman is just trying to spare us by rationing out his work in small doses! I must protest, however, that it would have been heavenly to have a few more examples to take in. Something to look forward to, perhaps?

Westerman’s early efforts fell into the singer-songwriter-guitar picker category until he joined forces with producer Bullion on last year’s Call and Response EP.  Bullion has what both have referred to as a “software” based musical background and his production adds electronica to the melodies to transform the music into an ethereal delight. Combined with  Westerman’s high register and soothing vocal stylings, it makes for unique and attention-getting work. The tenor of Westerman is reminiscent of Arthur Russell with a pinch of Alan Parsons thrown in for good measure and is very easy on the ears.

This collection of tunes begins with “Albatross” which is an uptempo and syncopated example of the Westerman/Bullion recipe for fine songwriting combined with exceptional production. The percussive background beat is just off-kilter enough with the basic vocal to grab attention without being off-putting.

The title tune “Ark”, is a bit of a different kettle of fish. This composition is the slowest offering here, with a lumbering beat much less rambunctious than the other three cuts. A repetitive chorus of “Don’t forget me/ I for one am waiting to see the shape of your ark”, gives the song its basic melody and makes one wonder if ark and arc could have been (or are being) used interchangeably. While not an acoustic/vocal example, the production is much less pronounced and depends more on the extraordinary vocal to carry it along. Westerman uses different vocal expressions here to allow his voice to feel like an added instrument of the architecture.

“Outside Sublime” is a personal favorite of the EP. A virtually perfect folk/rock melodic riff is enhanced by an otherworldly synth and electronic background. Written as an optimistic helping hand to anyone currently needing one, the refrain of “Be what you want / I’ll always be your champion” lets the intended feel appreciated and reassured. The guitar work here is extraordinary and bounces off the dreamy vocals with a connection perfectly fused. The title of this work fits it well. It is indeed a sublime bit of musical art.

Westerman gets his Steely Dan vibe on in the final cut entitled “Own”. This jazz/pop tune relies heavily on a persuasive bass line and a whip-like sounding slice of percussion to overpower an electric piano somewhat muted in the mix. Westerman’s lyric sings of trying to become something “Someone else will own”, hence the title. Its a laid back and calming ending to an impressive quartet of numbers.

It should be no secret after listening to “Ark” as to why Westerman is quickly becoming one of the brighter stars in the British music scene. On his upcoming tour, he will be visiting New York and Los Angeles and a future date at next year’s SXSW festival in Texas will bring his immense talent to the New World. Westerman is yet another example of why the singer/songwriter genre of popular music has gained such strength in recent years. No matter where on the musical map your tastes may lie, it is hard not to admire the polish and artistry Westerman offers on “Ark”.

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