Wes Willenbring, Weapons Reference Manual

Minimalist Wes Willenbring returns with an arsenal of grit-packed drones and layers of mass deconstruction on his new release, Weapons Reference Manual. As in previous works, the central conceit here is a slow and thoughtful deliberation of sound. Resonance matters to Willenbring; it’s an emotive element, but it also allows him to pile the hanging sounds to create a new sense out of them all. “Scene Missing” makes superb use of this constancy of tone. New sounds fold quietly into the existing mix over time, reforming the sonic topography but never urging it above an initmate, whispering drone.  A descending three-note phrase provides shambling movement. Another Willenbring signature is, for lack of a better term, the subversion of the normal. He’ll start with an instrument in its ordinary state–the guitar  in “People Disappear Every Day,” for example, then filter in his drones, static and interference and make the listener work to hang onto that element. (You won’t win in the long run.) It works in reverse order on “The Worst Part of You is the Best Thing You Have.” On this track the “normal” elements rise out of a rich tremolo warble of fuzz, which grinds off into nothing. Deconstruction in reverse, maybe? The centerpiece of the disc is the 15-minute “Quaaludes,” which opens as a grinding set of guitar notes, their detritus spining off into that piling sustain. The sound soon becomes hypnotic, despite its increasingly roughened texture. (This is something else you get a lot of from Willenbring–tactile sound.)  Weapons Reference Manual is a scant 40 minutes long, but its sheer density and depth ignore time. Deep listening is a must. Willenbring’s drones are complex, a pleasure to dive into. This is another excellent outing from a intriguing and confident artist.

Available from Hidden Shoal.

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