Janne Westerlund - Oran

10 songs
39:08 minutes
***** ****


The name Janne Westerlund didn’t ring a bell at first, but once I learned that he is the guitarist for Finnish psychedelic rockers Circle, I became curious about his first solo album Oran. Recorded between 2009 and 2011, it took quite some time to see the light of day, mostly because he was also busy with his other bands Pharaoh Overlord and Plain Ride.

Instead of indulging in the vast psychedelic sweeps of his main band, Janne Westerlund sounds very introspective, and most important of all, acoustic on Oran. Even his label seems to be at a loss for words and tries its best by describing the music as some kind of indie folk and Americana. The former frankly doesn’t make any sense to me, and the latter is such a vast term that things don’t become clearer. As a matter of fact, Westerlund deeply digs into ancient guitar music which reminds me very strongly of the late John Fahey, and I bet that is no coincidence. More contemporary references might be the solo work of Jim O’Rourke, for instance. Westerlund’s ten songs are mostly played on guitar and banjo. Especially the latter instrument comes as a surprise, but he performs just as splendidly on that instrument than on his acoustic guitar. Occasionally he also adds some discreet percussion and subdued keyboards. A guest musician is only needed for congas and djembe on two songs. Apart from that, it’s Janne Weserlund all the way!

Normally I am not that much into so-called singer/songwriter albums, but somehow Janne Westerlund manages to transport the psychedelic atmosphere of his electric bands into the lo-fi concept of his acoustic solo project, and the more I listen to Oran, the more subtleties I discover, and the more I love it. His vocals range from the soft spoken to more gnarly performances, and the later even recall another great and late artist: Captain Beefheart. This is purest mental cinema that every fan of acoustic guitar music should absolutely check out!

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