Jasper Sits Out
A few years ago, my dear friend and bandmate Jamie Stewart and I were talking about SWANS. I started to mention how much I admired the utterly personal approach to guitar that Norman Westberg had developed on those early records and moreover how that had blossomed out so richly on this latest incarnation of the band. During the course of the conversation Jamie mentioned a CDR that Norman had passed to him, which collected a few pieces of solo work that Norman had been working on. I was instantly curious to hear these pieces and started to track down the recordings online. After some investigating I found Norman’s CDRs available through an Etsy shop he had set up. I ordered one and a couple of weeks later, after I’d listened to that first CDR non-stop for a few days, I order all the others I could get my hands on.
The first solo work I heard from Norman was this recording, Jasper Sits Out. I was instantly struck by the textural sensitivity he managed to create with nothing more than a guitar and some modest pedals. He
managed to find a depth in what was a very limited palette and that impressed me greatly. The connections to his work with SWANS was clear, in that his trademark relation to tonality was present. Instead of relying on volume to achieve this sonic state though, Norman’s solo practice relied on a sense of swaying harmony and orbiting loops to create a tonally dense sound world that was very much personal, but overtly invitational to the listener.
Jasper Sits Out, the title referencing the Westberg family mascot who has now sadly departed, reflects Norman’s interest in minimal structures and the processes of iteration that are formed through the manipulation of looping fragments. Creating almost tidal surges across these pieces, Jasper Sits Out speaks to his abilities to contour sound in time. The lead track for example is truly oceanic in that is has a remarkable tidal flow of strumming textures that seem to sink below one another in a effortless wash of textural density.
I could not be more pleased to be able to share this music through Room40. This edition comes completely remastered and features a bonus piece recorded exclusively for this edition. I encourage you to listen deeply. – Lawrence English, January 2017.