Psychic Hotline

Joe Westerlund Announces New Album ‘Elegies for the Drift’ Out February 24th

January 24, 2023 - By Psychic Hotline

Today Joe Westerlund, an acclaimed North Carolina-based percussionist, composer and student of Milford Graves, who has collaborated with the likes of Sylvan Esso, Bon Iver, Califone, Megafaun, Gayngs, and more, has announced his sprawling new album, Elegies for the Drift, to be released February 24th via Psychic Hotline. Listen to the first offering from this record, “Kinshasa Yang,HERE. Of today’s release, Westerlund explains:

“Kinshasa Yang began as a series of layered, interlocking patterns I recorded with acoustic drums and percussion in the months leading up to my travels. Upon returning from that swirling experience, I began to dub out the initial ideas with sudden mutes, filter sweeps, echoing delays and cassette-squashed phasing, not unlike how a club DJ might manipulate tracks in a live setting. This energetic stretch of time in the summer of 2021 marked a turning point in my creative process, as well as in my grieving process, which is somewhat inadvertently mirrored in the emotional arc of the record.”

Elegies is a collection of five instrumental remembrances for people, times, and chances Westerlund has lost. It keys on two of Westerlund’s musical lodestars: Akron/Family’s Miles Cooper Seaton and Milford Graves, the free jazz iconoclast who drew Westerlund to Vermont’s Bennington College before becoming his lifelong guide, until he died only a week before Seaton. The record also owes to Aaron Efird, the father of Westerlund’s longtime partner, Carson, who died after an extended illness in April 2022.  

The resulting record is an exquisite index of the inspiration these people collectively offered Westerlund. Unapologetically opinionated and aggressively charismatic, Seaton, Graves, and Efird all gave the perennially polite native Midwesterner more courage to be himself, the very kind of confidence he’d need to pour out his emotions for the audience of a public release. It is a wordless thank-you letter, a heartfelt transmission from a season of sadness. 

Just five months after Seaton and Graves died in February 2021, Westerlund visited Kinshasa, the bustling Congolese capital, to see his extended family and play with the legendary Kasai Allstars for an afternoon. “Carolina Yin” and “Kinshasa Yang” mine the tension between who we are and who we might be, moving from the former’s peaceful haze of mbiras and bells to the latter’s kinetic playground of balafons, cymbals, and electronics. These tandem works are testaments to slipping among seemingly oppositional frames of mind, to holding onto yourself while trying on something new, too. The latter half is available to listen to on all streaming platforms today; listen HERE.

The physical version of Elegies for the Drift will be released as an extremely limited-run of CDs, with each one featuring custom hand-painted jackets by Westerlund; it will be available in a handful of North Carolina retailers, in addition to via Westerlund’s Bandcamp.