Westerhus, Stian & Pale Horses – “Maelstrom” – [Rune Grammofon]

Thurston Hunger   6/14/2014   A Library, CD

So I think there is room between the raw punk, the revived garage/surf,
the crackling chaos of noise and other KFJC favorites for a crafted, dare
I say well produced, album of tuneful rock ballads. Granted this release
comes with the Rune Grammofon imprint, and guitarist Stian Westerhus has
wailed away on other deviant disks. Here his guitar adds subtle tweakery,
but his creamy dreamy croon is more at the forefront. Along for the ride
his Palo Horses are Oystein Moen (of Jaga Jazzist who delivers an
orchestra of keyboards) and drummer Erland Dahlen. Trying to slide this
in next to Scott Walker’s recent work is a stretch, but maybe fans of
Talk Talk, Kate Bush and/or ELP might catch on. The pace on the tracks
is slow, and Moen’s keyboards have a definite air of pomp (and I can
only hope all three play live in robes, not just torn jeans and
t-shirts). Amidst the banks of keys, please set your ear detectors
on mellotron, that flawed and wavering but often favored sound for
many of us. Big hanging bass pedals step through. No song exceeds
10 minutes, but the word “opus” will arise at times. “Bed on Fire”
allows Stian a section of pyrotechnics but check the modern chorale
finish. “On and On” might have washed up on the shores of Roxy Music’s
“Avalon.” So yeah in a way this has a commercial feel, but 30 years
ag there *were* some enjoyable albums on big labels. I can see why
some KFJC’ers might blanch at this, but on second (and third) listen
I enjoyed this more and more, is that my senescence or this record’s
excellence? -Thurston Hunger


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