13 by Norman Westberg

Although Norman Westberg is best known for co-founding and playing guitar in the band Swans, his latest release is a solo album titled 13. The album offers up three extended pieces composed by Westberg which directs us through a minimalistic world of music as an image of utter bleakness pervades each track. Originally released in 2013, only 75 copies were made but since then it has been premastered and rethought for a much wider release.

Opening track ‘Frostbite Falls’ is as chilling in sound as it is name. The music resonates as an ominous black cloud, inescapable as each lackadaisical pluck of the guitar transcends into the next, and then the next. The deliberately drawn out tone of the song leads us to feel it is foreboding something much more dangerous and dark than we can conceive. Similarly, ‘Bunny Bill’ takes an equally disturbing approach as a collection of fading noises are placed alongside one another adopting the sound of a warning siren that is slowly dying down, as if it had been ringing for years. Westberg through his musical approach has crafted an image of a fallen land in the minds of the listener – almost as if a great world event has caused complete upheaval, transforming the world for ever more. The sound of the LP wouldn’t be out of place in the fields of WW2 after fighting had finally ceased: eerie, haunting and consuming. It is somewhat surprising then that the final track on the record ‘Oops, Wrong Hat’ should overturn the mood entirely. Despite still ruminating in the same manner which the preceding songs do it offers a glimmer of hope in this bleak existence, as if to say the world will turn the proverbial corner. A sense of calmness and optimism exudes from it perhaps pointing to a brighter future, far different to the worlds portrayed in the first two tracks on the album.


Niall Ballinger

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