by Craig Howieson
A meditative reflection on the shape of life, Cedric Noel’s eighth album is another extraordinary installment
Montreal based, Cedric Noel, can say an awful lot with very few words. On what is now his eighth record, many of the tracks revolve around just a handful of lyrics or repeated lines. It lends the album a contemplative and meditative feel. And, in many ways, it is a meditation: a meditation on discovering a sense of self, of placement and displacement, and of questioning the shape of the world around you – and how exactly you fit into it.
The music of Hang Time often shares the same hypnotic vibe found in the lyrics. Slowcore guitars, snaking bass and drums that perfectly pick up the beat instead of setting it allow you to lean into some of the record’s most piercing moments such as opener, Comuu. And on the whispered beauty of Bass Song (a duet with Ella Williams aka Squirrel Flower), and the record’s closer, Cozy, there is a confident, ambient minimalism at work.
There is more than one drawer in Noel’s toolbox though, and elsewhere there are moments of altitude sickness inducing euphoria – where choruses climb to unseen heights, and Noel embraces an unashamed grandeur in his sound. There are massive moments on Hang Time too, but the production ensures that they remain relatable. Like a symphony in a shoebox, as epic as things get, it always feels like Noel is delivering a message direct to you. The key to this secret may lie in his undefinable voice. He seems to have a natural reverb, so much so that his voice commands a space of its own on the record, which is uniquely reassuring.
The album’s most powerful moments are perhaps found on its second half, as Allies is followed by Nighttime (Skin). On the former, surfing a constant crescendo, Noel questions when, if ever, it is possible to tell if friendship and support is genuine or performative. Then, on Nighttime (Skin), he defiantly and triumphantly finds solace in his own self belief that allows him to move past that questioning.
There are always albums released towards the end of a year that will mess up publications ‘best of’ lists. This is one such record. To be eight albums in, and showing no sign of growing stale or repetitive – and, in fact, releasing the most exciting album of his career – is nothing short of extraordinary.
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