Byron Westbrook “Distortion Hue”

Visceral to the point of being transcendent, Byron Westbrook’s Hue, his latest for Hands in the Dark, is massive. Thick, atmospheric drones boil over and eventually scatter into the wind, finding intricate paths and subdued zones beneath the expansive ether. Cathartic as it may be, there’s an inward nature to Hue that is intimate yet striking. 

Prevailing throughout is the tension of our current moment; rife with anxiety filtered through blistering synthesizer tones and  explorations. Westbrook flits between moods, but beneath it all is this sense of something foreboding just around the bend. “Tunnel Visioning” takes sparse rhythms apart and folds in a paranoid bass sequence to turn up the apprehension to its breaking point. Paired with “Ricochet Waves” and it’s flying arpeggios, a dichotomy emerges. Horror underlies everything, though. Even these hopeful, sunkissed passages can’t overcome the darkness awaiting on the back side. “Ricochet Waves” devolves into grey echoes. 

There’s a controlled chaos to tracks like “Electric Blued” and “Still Ringing Red” that adds heat to the atmosphere. Each second further feels closer to going over the edge. Complex layers of sound intertwine, building an aural mass that exquisitely massages your skull. Westbrook is a wizard, conjuring deafening spirits that serve as constant reminders of the bodies left in society’s wake this past year. It’s a difficult listen at times, but as the light seeps into the sanguine tones of closer “Yellow Horizon Line,” you realize it was all worth it.