Album: WES WILLENBRING – Close, But Not Too Close (Hidden Shoal 2009)

I’ve had this a while (OK, hands up – there’s a lot of stuff I’ve had for a while, some of which I’ve not listened to yet, let alone reviewed – but everything will be), but for some reason it made little impression on the first couple of listens. Wes Willenbring’s music fits firmly into the Kranky aesthetic, redolent of Labradford and their kin. It’s slow, unhurried and full of texture.

While you could daub it with the ambient tag, Close But Not Too Close is more than just a collection of cosmic drone, although that certainly plays a part. The eight tracks have varied instrumentation, with moods varying from the introspective to the cosmic. The pace is uniformly glacial which may be why it takes a few listens for the subtleties to reveal themselves. Gentle acoustic guitar, stark piano, mellotron generated flute effects, and spaced-out organ all make their contributions.

Gradually, each piece reveals its own identity. Of the eight, though, the two that impress most are “My Ghostly Fingers” and the closing “The Anti-Social Aesthetic”. The former mixes piano and flute in a warm, melancholy way. It feels like being tucked inside a warm duvet on a cold, wet and wild night – a place of comfort and safety. On the other hand, the album ends shooting for the stars with cosmic organ drones and fuzz like stellar radio noise beamed from distant stars. It’s the sort of stuff that Tangerine Dream used to do in the early seventies before they became obsessed with sequencers.

Close But Not Close doesn’t demand attention, but rewards it if it’s given.

Tracks
1 I’m Looking Forward to Your Funeral 4:03
2 Oh Most 4:49
3 My Ghostly Fingers 5:28
4 The Burrow 4:04
5 For All the Strays 4:45
6 Still 4:39
7 A Half-Hearted Apology 2:43
8 The Anti-Social Aesthetic 7:08

Websites
music.hiddenshoal.com
www.weswillenbring.com

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