Boomkat Product Review:
Swans’ influential guitarist Norman Westberg returns with his most substantial album to date on the expansive, personal panoramas of ‘After Vacation’, a profoundly beautiful set of windswept soundscapes amplified by production from Lawrence English.
For the last 6 years Westberg has rendered a one-take representation of his studio performances, effectively presenting a series of naked meditations on the electric guitar with little or no over-dubbing. Now, breaking with tradition following the end of Swans in their current configuration, he opens up his sound to reveal a depth of tonal colour and harmonic possibilities that just weren’t there in previous outings.
His glacially slow panning shots now highlight a finer spectrum of notes with much deeper spatial relief, marking a sharp difference between his old and new sounds akin to switching from a cathode ray TV to widescreen HD. That’s partly down to Westberg’s renewed impetus and ambition, but also no doubt aided by Lawrence English’s production, which serves to breath patient, pregnant space between the notes and reveal compelling new aspects to Westberg’s sound.
That sound is significantly and fully realised in six parts, traversing from windless nocturnal desert scenes in the cinematic majesty of Soothe The String, to the opiated shimmer of Drops In A Bucket and the arcing, star-gazing poignancy of Norman Seen As An Infant on the A-side, before really zooming out on the B-side to reveal a dawning valley of slow rolling melodic fog and harmonic aurora in Levitation, and coming to rest in the homebound floral acoustic guitar strokes and lushly layered environs of the album’s closing title track.
One of the year’s most evocative quiet listens, After Vacation comes with a huge recommendation if you’re into anything from Ry Cooder’s classic Paris, Texas soundtrack to more contemporary variations on that theme from the likes of Tim Hecker, Stars of the Lid or indeed Lawernce English.