While BARST is already known for a well-tuned ear from his collaborations with Treha Sektori, "The Western Lands" is the very first full-length album by Bart Desmet (Belgium). You might immediately think of other solo projects from Belgium such as Syndrome or CHVE. A connection could be made but only in terms of heaviness and the drone component, since BARST doesn’t sound like a solo project at all. It’s a one man orchestra. “The Western Lands” is a complex, layered journey that embraces the best of drone, post-rock, ambient and electronica. Only two tracks comprise the album. Nevertheless, they yield an exceptional story. A story that can be told again and again and each time you listen, you’ll discover something new.
The Threshold/The Rite/The Passage, a 22 min long track, starts with a post-rock interlude spiced up with some electronica - think of a lighter hiatus of Swedish Cult of Luna or The Moth Gatherer. Yes, BARST’s epic sensibility compares to a five-piece experimental post-rock outfit from Scandinavia, or perhaps there could even be an allusion to Americans Red Sparowes. As the track develops you are left astonished by the range of instruments - guitars, synthesizers, a violin, a variety of drums (also looped). It is hard distinguish, which are digital, which are “real”, so seamlessly they are blended in. The most appropriate reference I could think of is the American composer Daniel Wohl (Holographic), who bridges the divide between acoustic instruments and electronics. Like Daniel, Bart confuses you with layers of misty vocalise and howls, percussive effects and erratic pulsations. The confusion is a pure pleasure though! For quite a long time I haven’t listened to an album that sounds so integral and fluid, yet diverse.
The second part of the track (The Rite) brings me back from the outer space to Belgium, where the shamanistic vibes resemble the ones of The Black Heart Rebellion… when guitars fade away, I am taken to France to meet tête-à-tête with the haunting darkness of Treha Sektori-an (or The Haxan Cloak-ian) soundscapes…
The title song The Western Lands opens up with slow ambient-esque rhythms that are soon replaced by almost danceable electronic beats. The peak is reached when Mike Armine (Rosetta) screams "Rejoice, Gather Around!!!"… The song, lasting almost 23 minutes, is littered with unexpected elements, ranging from drone guitars to wooden tribal percussions. Up and down, light to dark, The Western Lands gives you a chance to catch your breath and the odyssey continues.
Plunging into a blackened well and lifting up “The Western Lands” by Barst is 10 out of 10. And if you are still not convinced, take into account that the album was recorded with a help of Mike Armine (Rosetta), Dehn Sora (Treha Sektori, Sembler Deah), Karen Willems (Inwolves), Mathieu Mathlovsky (Mathlovsky), Nicolas Van Meirhaeghe (Empusae, Onus), An-Sofie De Meyer (FÄR), Tokyo Oyo and Herr Man. Released on Consouling Sounds, 25th of November.