Byron Westbrook – Body Consonance (2017)
For the last decade, Byron Westbrook has been slowly weaving an intricate tapestry in sound, bridging the worlds of sound art and avant-garde electronic music and synthesis. Across the same period, he has also become one my dear friends – a fixture within my life in NY. I’ve watched his work evolve, with his creative, conceptual, and intellectual concerns swirling through our conversations. He is an artist of rigorous detail, utilizing hyper-specificity – structural, conceptual, and environmental, to deconstruct presumed or imposed truth – for whom music is not simply organizations of sound, but rather nodes of meaning along the pathway into the realm of ideas. Following Precipice, his critically acclaimed debut LP issued by Root Strata in 2015, he returns with Body Consonance, a brilliant new record on Hands in the Dark.
Body Consonance grew from live experiments which began in 2015, the period in which Byron was supporting the release of Precipice – the result of a self-imposed challenge to work within the constraints of two channels – to compose with sounds that project their movement into the listener’s space rather than a separate or contained sonic dimension – to sculpt a three-dimensional realm within which the ear already exists. Rather than the ethereal ambiences found within its predecessor, Body Consonance delves toward a new form of immediacy, working with percussive elements with no apparent meter – ecstatic abstract rhythm and offset phase relationships. The result, presented across five distinct works, is an evolving, rich landscape of textural sound – a spectrum of synthesis and sonic organization which highlights the wider framework within which it exists.
To the well honed ear, early encounters with Body Consonance will offer inevitable surprise. Without sacrificing the ideas and intellect which runs through Westbrook’s entire body of work, it pushes forward with an ecstatic immediacy – seeming the product of intuition and a process of letting go, which advances the proximity of electronic music into an undefinable, transient, liminal space. Scrambling signifiers, and dashing presumption and definition, it is electronic music as lonely wanderer, casting a shadow on countless thresholds, without moving on or within. A high point in a career already marked by acclaim, in my view it’s Byron’s best record to date – filled with challenge and reward, bringing sonic abstraction to life and forced to inhabit our space. Check out a couple of samples below, and pick it up from Hands in the Dark, SoundOhm, or a record store near you