It was a matter of time, really, for Teun Verbruggen and Stian Westerhus to come up with a duo recording. As 50% of the Belgian-Norwegian space travel project Warped Dreamer, they have already forged a consistently challenging musical re/invention. Together with Jozef Dumoulin and Arve Henriksen, they create extended soundscapes that introduce you to a post-industrial world with an almost frightening intensity. Combining the cerebral with the visceral, it’s a bold exercise in 21st century exploration.
Verbruggen has frequently worked with Dumoulin: as a duo, in various Belgian bands and striking international projects such as The Bureau Of Atomic Tourisme or the trio with Keiji Haino. His collaboration with Henriksen goes back to 2012’s Black Swan, a series of inspired drums/trumpet duos. Now, there’s finally also a duo recording of Verbruggen and Westerhus, the result of a doomed 2021 Warped Dreamer tour that left the two musicians by themselves as a duo. Those familiar with their projects will already know there was no shortage of sounds of ideas, but still: the material here is quite different from the quartet’s music.
Westerhus is a masterful manipulator who manages to turn his guitar into a sound generator with the use of 21st century tools, resulting in a 22nd century sound. Verbruggen, on his part, has always augmented his acoustic drums with playful, disruptive electronics. The result of their meeting is an iridescent amalgam of ideas, sounds and effects, that occasionally verge towards dense bombast, like futuristic expressionist paintings with disregard for the borders of the canvas, but at the same time also introduces a naked fragility.
What sounds as if the machines are taking over the one moment, revels in moody melancholy in the next. Longer tracks “The Hickson Association” and “Ursa” demonstrate this potential most clearly. While the former introduces a world of intimacy and sensitivity that is slowly sculptured into a thing of ravishing beauty, the latter is a heavy, disjointed piece of maximalist improvisation, a head-on collision of powerful sounds and manipulations. These two masterful instant compositions are surrounded by six shorter pieces exploring various possibilities in between, ranging from otherworldly convulsions to terrifying could-be-soundtracks and gentle hums barely raised above a whisper.
Like the music of Warped Dreamer, Earthbound Monochrome is rooted in the avant-garde and improvisation scenes these two musicians are crucial parts of. Brought together, they create new worlds that are temporary but also filled with enough detail and depth to create a timeless sense of wonder and excitement.