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Barst - The Western Lands album review

Belgian sound-sorcerer invokes a ceremony of opposites

Cover art for Barst's The Western Lands

Belgian conceptualist Barst seeks transcendence by way of deconstruction, his debut album consisting of two 20-minute abstractions designed to get you outside of your head. The title comes from US author William S Burroughs’ 1987 novel of the same name, a tale told from multiple perspectives often centuries apart, and described by critics as Burroughs’ attempt to cheat death.

So far so highbrow, but as a listening experience, The Western Lands proves as accessible as it does amorphous. The Threshold/The Rite/The Passage’s ambient, future-minded prog is shaken from reverie by the persistent march of industrial drums, morphing into a tribal rhythm built to fervent mantra, a reverence crushed by The Western Lands/The Fields’ bellowed vocals and cataclysmic riffs – a chaotic journey that culminates in an eerily uncertain future of seething shoegaze. Here the modern meets the ancient, uplifting spirituality clashes with pitch-black nihilism, remorseless machinery jeopardises organic fragility. A meditative journey through the human experience, the outcome of which depends entirely upon your own perspective.