Wes Willenbring: Close, But Not Too Close
Hidden Shoal

San Francisco-based ambient artisan Wes Willenbring follows his well-crafted 2007 effort Somewhere Someone Else with thenatural companion recording Close, But Not Too Close. Track titles such as “The Anti-Social Aesthetic” and “I'm Looking Forward to Your Funeral” suggest his music might be so hermetic it's designed to ward off listeners' advances, but in fact Willenbring leaves the door open just enough to allow visitors in to share his world. His is an unassuming and rather muted style; he's not the kind of composer who bludgeons the listener with abrasive extremes but rather lures him/her in with the seductive understatement of fully-rounded and plaintive meditations.

Given the schadenfreude-themed choice of title for the opening piece, “I'm Looking Forward to Your Funeral,” no one at least can accuse Willenbring of lacking a sense of humour, if a rather wry and perverse one. The organ-and-piano-based setting itself is hardly a joke, however, but rather a fine exemplar of his luscious and introspective style. In “Oh, Most,” sheets of icy guitar-generated sound spread across blurry piano flourishes and bass meanderings.The appropriately-titled “My Ghostly Fingers” augments haunting and dramatic piano figures with Mellotron-generated flute quiverings. The organ swells coursing through the closing “The Anti-Social Aesthetic” identify it as a mirror version to the opening piece. Though modest in length at thirty-eight minutes, the album includes no shortage of crepuscular drones and brooding evocations. Like aural transcriptions of a comatose-like state, Willenbring's carefully-considered set-pieces for piano, guitar, and mellotron reverberate in one's consciousness long after they're gone.

January 2010