Wes Willenbring: Somewhere Someone Else
Hidden Shoal

Wes Willenbring's Somewhere Someone Else further testifies to Hidden Shoal's emergence as a significant player in the ambient electronic music genre. On his debut full-length for the Perth, Australia imprint, the San Francisco-based composer transmutes the natural timbres of piano and electric guitar into crepuscular settings that straddle a space betwixt ambient drones and melodic compositions. Illuminated by shimmering waves of piano radiance, Willenbring's pieces sometimes imperceptibly drift in and out of focus, while their titles—“In A Quiet Dark Room,” “As You Fade Away,” and “Reverie”—leave little doubt as to the music's retiring character.

He wisely introduces subtle contrasts from one song to another such that, at one moment, the music's atmospheric side (“Correspondence”) might be emphasized while, moments later, a more aggressive attack is featured (the piano melodies that resound aggressively against a background mass of strings during “In A Quiet Dark Room”). Mimicking the passage from waking to sleeping, “Reverie” slowly submerges the guitar's bright strum into the blurry mass that swells below, while “Aperture” is graced by piano chords as elegant and minimal as a Satie miniature, its prettiness offset by the drone hovering in the distance. Occasionally, antecedents for Willenbring's style declare themselves: “Lost Illusions” presents its stately and melancholic lines of electric guitar and piano in a plodding manner that recalls Labradford and, with its softly churning swirls and muffled tones, “Resuscitate” aligns itself to the type of nuanced soundscaping heard on Eluvium's Talk Amongst the Trees. Willenbring's music impresses throughout, but most especially when the echoes of blurred piano notes bleed into the ringing sustain of guitar atmospherics.

April 2007