** Edition of 300 ** For more than a decade, the Los Angeles based musical and composer, Byron Westbrook, has woven a progressively intricate tapestry in sound, bridging the worlds of sound art, avant-garde electronic music, and synthesis. He is an artist of rigorous detail, for whom the creation of hyper specific environmental contexts is a means to deconstruct what is presumed or imposed upon a given spectrum of sound. Extending from and beyond the ground covered by his 2017 LP, Body Consonance, as well as a couple of cassettes issued during the unsung years, he returns with Distortion Hue, a deeply intimate exploration of an internal sonorous world, rooted in the self, and his second full length with the venerable French / English imprint, Hands in the Dark.
Created during the enforced isolation of global pandemic, following his move to Los Angeles from New York in 2018, and a fruitful period of live performance, Distortion Hue encounters Byron Westbrook mining his own past as a means toward new future forms. The album began with a series of unfinished synthesizer sketches that had been composed between 2014–2016. Harnessing the raw energy captured in the early stages of a creative process, while sidestepping the refined complexities that has defined much of his recent works, the totality of Distortion Hue began to come into focus and offer meaning within the context of an exceedingly anxious year. As Westbrook recalls, “In revisiting this material and feeling its resonance with the moment, I immediately had clarity for how to complete the recordings as a whole record”.
Using his love for the sound of an electric guitar’s overdriven feedback as a sonic touchstone, across the length of Distortion Hue, Westbrook weaves a forward-thinking rendering of electroacoustic music that inexplicably bridges the gap between the gloomy playfulness found in the work of late '70s / early '80s electronic pioneers like Manuel Göttsching, Wolfgang Riechmann, Harald Grosskopf, Richard Wahnfried, or Richard Pinhas, the forthright power and directness of American minimalists like Tony Conrad and Phill Niblock, and the sprawling, textural scope of '90s era explorations by artists like Rafael Toral, Christian Fennesz, and Oren Ambarchi, plunging toward new territories of strikingly potent emotiveness, that balance on the edge between spontaneity, instinct, and exacting focus and control.
Divided into ten tracks - each their own discrete world that work seamlessly as a whole - Distortion Hue veers toward the sonic realm of doomy, horror laden rock music, making it singular and unique, not to mention a noteworthy leap, within Westbrook’s larger body of work. Anxious rhythms, synthesized riffing, expansive texture and ambience, join as a body of free-standing synthesized realities, culled from a rigorous process experimentation and self-reflection, that border on the visionary and present a prescient soundtrack for our complex and uncertain times.
Impossible to recommend enough and a highpoint in Byron Westbrook’s already striking career, Distortion Hue is issued by Hands in the Dark in a limited edition of 300 copies on black vinyl.