Byron Westbrook’s latest record is as much about the body as it is about the mind. Regardless of one’s opinion on the actual distinction between the two (as Morrissey so aptly pointed out, we don’t exactly know who’s calling the shots), Body Consonance draws a rather convincing line of segregation. This music is as stimulating for the mind as it is for the body, as heady as it is corporeal, as pointillistic as it is brimming with playful, post-techno rhythms. Westbrook has crafted an album that stimulates more than one faculty of the listener experience. Rather than stopping at the ears, this music travels to and stimulates all parts of the body, a result of Westbrook’s deliberate intentions to add an immediacy and physicality to his already complex musical oeuvre.
Throughout a handful of albums and numerous installations, Westbrook’s approach to sound has always screamed precision and calculation. Clear intent lies at the centre of everything he touches. The same is true for Body Consonance, but herein seems to lie a certain level of unpredictability. Westbrook seems to be coming around to happenstance as a valuable tool in his music, albeit slowly. His compositions still lie within predictable temporal frameworks—perhaps a lasting influence from his song writing days in a rock band—but the sounds themselves have gained variability, such as the sawtooth feedback occupying the dwindling moments of “Fireworks Choreography,” the frenetic energy of opener “Dance in Free Fall,” or the entire album’s use of off-kilter percussion—not unlike a plethora of Whitehouse songs just moments before William Bennet obliterates your sunny disposition.
If “Dance in Free Fall” seems too short, it’s because it isn’t meant to stand alone. The opener’s intent comes into focus when leaning on the second track, the album standout, “What We Mean When We Say Body Language.” The track is a deeply engaging excursion into buzzing drones, simulated soft rhythms and synthetic textures, all coming together in perfect unison. At three minutes we hear what might be described as a false climax, like a mountain climber who thinks they’ve reached the summit only to find the sheer rock face of an even bigger mountain directly in front of them. Of anything found on the album, “What We Mean…” is the best executed, feeling the most like a lens coming into focus on Westbrook’s core ideas.
The question might be how Body Consonance affects one physically, but what feels equally important is how the music itself seems to take on a physicality. Westbrook’s experience with installation—particularly ones like Field of View, Played by Ear, where he is moving a microphone around a physical space and listening to its effect—has provided him a really good ear for constructing music that feels like it has a three dimensional origin, as opposed to just filling a three dimensional space when played. This sculptural quality to the sound lies somewhere in the roots of why this music is as mentally engaging as it is physically. As one of the year’s strongest works for experimental composition, Body Consonance proves that music is not limited to any single plane.
Available now via Hands in the Dark.