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Live Review: Westerman inhabits a conversation between lovers on 'Easy Money'

18 July 2018 | 10:47 am | Kyle Fensom

One of the breakout stars of 2018, Westerman offers another arresting character portrait with 'Easy Money', a conversation between two distanced lovers

UK singer-songwriter WESTERMAN has quietly garnered a rep as one of the year’s most promising breakout stars off the back of his psychological approach to storytelling, his off-kilter electronic/folk songwriting and his impressionistic character sketches. His music often inhabits the minds of troubled characters; his breakout single, ‘Confirmation’, was a piece of meta-commentary on the elusive creative process of the artist himself, while his latest single, ‘Edison’, delved into the psychosis of a megalomaniac in which he hilariously confesses that: “I read Baldwin every morning / At least I pretend to / Isn’t that the same?

His new single, ‘Easy Money’, the B-Side to the aforementioned ‘Edison’, is yet another arresting character portrait that speaks as much with its musicality as it does with Westerman’s cryptic lyricism. This time, he’s inhabiting a conversation, an argument between two distanced lovers, switching between registers and vocal styles in the alternating verses to represent their differing perspectives. Appropriately, space suffuses the track, between Westerman’s lines and the brooding, swirling guitar chords to give the impression of distance between the pair. Notes of miscommunication and disharmony can be felt in the bleeping synth lines which intersect the track at odd angles.

I started out writing a love song, then it sort of morphed into more of a conversation,” The artist explained. ‘It's a conversation I had many times over with someone I care about a lot. The subject matter is something I was thinking about too often. I wanted to retain a sense of romance in the music as counterpoint to where lyrics ended up, and I tried to make it so the voice seems float within the music. The characters existing in a state of transience.”

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Westerman often gets labelled as “enigmatic” - less so because he’s hiding behind an artistic cloak of anonymity but more because his music is intangible, fundamentally hard to hold onto. Like the characters he sings about on ‘Easy Money’, his music often starts in one place, but ends up somewhere else, caught in a state of transience as his arrangements mutate around the throughline of his vocals.  

The first half of ‘Easy Money’ is focused but unassuming, a relatively simple electronic folk composition anchored by twinkling synths and a brittle, slightly distorted, lo-fi drum machine beat. It’s sinewy and hazily romantic, purposefully leaning into the subtle 80s aesthetic that Westerman has also mined on previous singles, perhaps reflecting an optimism which the conversation begins with. Most of all it’s very ARTHUR RUSSELL, which - I know - is a very in-vogue reference point, but, linking up again with producer BULLION in their continued creative collaboration, Westerman finds a fragility and intimacy in minimalism that feels impossibly spiritually indebted to the late composer, more so than any other artist working right now.

But as the track progresses the prologue of ‘Easy Money’s first half gives way to something more troubled: picking up the pace, fuzzed-out guitars quietly moan in the distance, the placid stoicism of Westerman’s earlier guitar chords grow rougher and more frenetically strummed, those bleeping synth lines make more and more regular incursions into the track until they almost completely take over, and Westerman’s once spacious vocals are replaced by call-and-response affirmations of “Never enough for them!” as the brittle drum machine comes crashing down around him.

Westerman's output throughout 2018 has been consistently excellent and 'Easy Money' is yet another puzzle piece to add to his breakout year, which is set to culminate in the final months with a debut EP, before a full-length record arrives in 2019.

IMAGE: James Sinclair