"Quetico, a provincial park in Ontario, Canada, is 1.2 million acres of rugged boreal wilderness made up of a vast system of lakes, connected by portages, and traversable by canoe. It’s a place one goes to be alone, to disappear into a chorus of natural sounds, to reset, and to lose all sense of normal time. Quetico, the solo jazz project of Eau Claire native Yan Westerlund, serves that exact same purpose, except indoors. Westerlund, who now resides in North Carolina, has performed and recorded drums with notable indie outfits such as Sylvan Esso, Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls, Phil Cook, Bowerbirds, Mipso, and Daughter Of Swords, to name a fraction. He has also played in the progressive-experimental outfit, Canine Heart Sounds, since the late-aughts. In Quetico, though, Westerlund serves as the sole composer, meticulously exploring the edges of jazz music and what lies beyond the constructs of traditional structure. Quetico’s newest release, Know You Are, is a more subdued follow-up to 2019’s maximalist Man Alone. It’s the sound of Westerlund fully realizing his vision for the project, resulting in a meticulously crafted piece of art. With the help of Tim Sullivan and Mark Paulson on an array of instruments, Know You Are features an amalgam of wild time signatures played on Yan’s stripped-down kit, electronic drum pads, sultry saxophone, expansive flute and clarinet, calming piano, digital noise modulations, and big, hooky synths. The entire record is a proof point that Westerlund operates on another level musically. There’s a very studied jazz mastery at play here, transforming into hip-hop, R&B, even easy listening at times, then completely cathartic walls of sound at others. In all Quetico’s heady decision-making, Know You Are feels like a genuine expression of what truly goes on in our own scattered heads. There’s hope, lightness, purity, intensity, and indecipherable disorder, all neatly contained in just seven tracks. Much like the real Quetico, Know You Are is worth returning to time and time again to find new paths, explore new depths, or to just get lost for a little while. It’s a welcome addition to the ever-growing list of genre-pushing music being made by musicians native to Eau Claire.
- Mike Behrends (Volume One)
"Quetico, the songwriting outlet founded by drummer/composer Yan Westerlund, the esteemed collaborator with Sylvan Esso, Bowerbirds, Phil Cook, and other Carolina icons, shares “Keith,” his new single and video of spaced-out jazzy hip-hop fusion that showcases his sagacious instrumental intellect and distinctive electro-acoustic soundscapes."
"One might think of Genesis or James Blake or late Yes or Dean Blunt or Stewart Copeland or Philip Glass. Another point of reference might be the hybridized effects-saturated saxophone of Eddie Harris, particularly on the song Duluth, MN. Or, as Westerlund put it, “like Flying Lotus jamming with the Bad Plus.” You get the idea— virtuosic, but tasteful enough to keep the abacus-calculating complexity subdued— a sensibility that encompasses electro-pop, abstract hip-hop and free jazz. Quetico’s music is sophisticated, with odd-time sections with 5-beat, 7-beat, or 9-beat parts, or passages that seem to have had a beat lopped off, making the whole groove’s momentum turn around before you expect it to, or leaving you feeling slightly at sea as you try to figure out where the downbeat might be." - John Adamian (YES! Weekly)
"Quetico is rooted, by admission of its genre tags, in r&b, hip hop, and jazz but there's moments like the soaring "Jeanne", the emotive expanse of "Father Lenny" or cascading "The Dark Waters" that seem deeply invocative of Westerlund's folk foundations. Man Alone essentially seeks to marry these folk and electronic dalliances with hip hop and jazz inspired rhythms and the result is something not entirely classifiable through genre alone. The fact that Westerlund felt the need to speak through so many different instruments in his compositions is pretty indicative of the complexity of influence, inspiration, and aspiration. Purely an instrumental project, piano serves as Westerlund's primary vehicle for establishing melodic ideas with synths more as means for exploration of timbres." - Dante Allington (All Around Sound)
"Westerlund has been a Triangle mainstay for nearly a decade, playing in groups such as Bowerbirds, Mipso, Phil Cook, Canine Heart Sounds, Lost in the Trees, and numerous others. As enjoyable as all those bands have been for him, he says, “I just finally realized that I needed to make something on my own to feel satisfied musically in all corners. I hit a point where I wasn’t feeling that this or that song was fitting this group or that group. Or, if they were, they were changing too much, and I wasn’t as excited about them.”
Westerlund plays practically everything on Man Alone’s nine instrumental tracks, which allowed him to take his music wherever he wanted without compromises. Consequently, questions of solitude are central to his conception of the band, which is named after Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, a place he closely associates with being alone."
- Dan Ruccia (INDYweek)
LIVE BAND/studio COLLABORATORS:
Skinner (Canine Heart Sounds)
Mark Paulson (Bowerbirds)
Matt Douglas (Mountain Goats, Hot at Nights)
Tim Sullivan (Fred Wesley, Cab Calloway)