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Westerman transcends emotion in favour of exploration on An Inbuilt Fault

"An Inbuilt Fault"

Release date: 05 May 2023
Westerman - An Inbuilt Fault cover
03 May 2023, 09:00 Written by Amaya Lim

Listening to Westerman raises the question: What does it mean?

The resounding answer from the British songwriter on his new album – An Inbuilt Fault – is that it doesn’t matter. Westerman’s appeal is in his incredible melodic work, unconventional and constantly twisting around an invisible thread of harmonic opportunity. Because it is nearly impossible to follow passively, Will Westerman’s work is wildly engaging, an exercise in discovery and delight if approached correctly.

An Inbuilt Fault was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) and Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952), two films that, while disparate in many ways, both follow their subjects through seemingly insurmountable internal conflict to eventual nirvana. It is fitting that Westerman notes films as his main influences; An Inbuilt Fault is cinematic, huge and heavy. The urgency and fervent questioning of his own hero’s journey are sonically developed by James Krivchenia’s (Big Thief) polyrhythmic drumming. Westerman excavates myriad subjects on this record, but refuses clear answers, preferring to paint a scene and leave listeners to their own conclusions.

There is a sense of solitude on An Inbuilt Fault, despite its being the first collaborative Westerman album: “I needed help / Help didn’t help at all / I only have myself / Now even that feels so ephemeral” (“Help Didn’t Help At All”). Lyrically, Westerman seems to take an almost academic or intellectual interest in suffering, rather than a personal one. The sterility of his vocal delivery, clean and unadorned, is contrasted by the alien nature of his chosen melodies and rhythms. Only in moments of repetitive meditation does his voice rise to a fever pitch to match the instrumentation, such as on “Take”: “Taking breaks the heart of love,” he sings over and over again.

An Inbuilt Fault shines in the moments when it finds space to bloom. On the nearly seven minute-long title track, a chorus of voices sings a capella “A happy accident / Is caught between us”. The choir and the thick major harmonies give the interlude a distinct sense of religious reverence, an especially rewarding excursion on the album. As the album draws to an ambiguous close, Westerman asks, “Am I the last one living / At the end of giving / The end of moving on?” (“Pilot Was A Dancer”). The song imagines its protagonist as the only person left on earth but brings the same joyful inquisitiveness to even this bleak premonition. An Inbuilt Fault transcends emotion in favour of exploration.

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