acoustic ambient guitar instrumental instruments music review soundtrack

Western Skies Motel – “Settlers” Review

One of the most understated greatest guitar albums of the decade
Western Skies Motel
Western Skies Motel

Hailing from Denmark. but feeling much more at home in the outback or in the wild rockies, Western Skies Motel is an instrumental project that swings from style to style – but usually stays in the acoustic field of sound. True to its name “Settlers” is an album dedicated to the acoustic guitar in a style that suits the American Settlers.

René González Schelbeck, whose the man behind Western Skies Motel, sets about creating an introspective and at times cinematic soundscape. His guitar playing is melodic and entrancing. From the opening moments of “Fallen Leaves” you are whisked away and the delicate finger plucking and intricate melodic layers are so interwoven that you don’t even realise the level of skill required to get all this sound from just one instrument. “Two Worlds” is a perfect examples of layers of sound and the smallest addition of textural guitar noise behind the acoustics working wonders. You can feel every noise of each string – and because it’s so well mastered it breathes an extra layer of life to the album.

It’s difficult sometimes to go into detail over a single instrument led instrumental album but it’s full of character. I love how “Migratory Birds” is played back and forth like a flap of a wing between two chords. I love how devastatingly the enduring drone of string and noise that “Whelm” has. This track in particular is actually emotionally effecting and reminds me of an ambient Sigur Ros in part. The use of a distant piano in the final quarter is inspired. Each track is filled with sombre moments and yet has its own distinct personality. “Garden” even has crickets in it!

The closing trio of tracks are some of the longest and some of the best on the album. “Transformation” literally shifts from an acoustic virtuoso piece to a drone led organ/string audio bleed and is artistic sound personified. Similarly “Whirl” – the single for the album follows a similar vein but is more bombastic and latin in its flair. The album closes out with the eight minute epic “After the Storm” which is more plugged than the rest of the album but hardly post rock in delivery – although it’s hitting the same emotional core.

For instrumental ambient music – Western Motel Skies absolute nails the  rustic beauty and sadness of a lonely trail of settlers. Melodic but understated, I’ve found this on repeat in the quiet hours of the night and feeling intensely sad, but also at times the warmth of home too. There’s nothing quite like it in my music collection and I urge people to check it out.

Recommended Track : “Two Worlds”

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