Review: Norwell – Grasslands

folderEach piece is an extract of an infinite loop. When I’m halfway through, I’m hearing the music’s future with the same clarity that illuminates its present and preserves its past. A pulsating synthesiser spans out behind me and before me. And while the road may curve with subtle modulations in timbre, or find itself adorned with a variable array of ambient flora along the way, the central premise is a constant. I fixate on these electronic patterns – kosmische cycles surging out of vintage synthesisers – until I meld with them, as assured in their eternal return as I am in seeing the sky when I look up. Norwell may limit these songs to six minutes apiece, trimming the edges to emulate musical introductions and organic conclusions, but in my head the music spans far beyond any durational limits. They blanket the entire spectrum of time with a single, tessellating pattern, each iteration held in place by a grid of thumping electronic beat.

If these loops are the road running beneath my feet, the stereo edges of Grasslands are the landscape rushing past in a blur: reverberant smears of colour and sudden whooshes of phaser, forever emerging from nowhere and melting into nothing. The one-note clack of the title track feels like a rollercoaster ascent, carrying me through clouds of shapeless ambient harmony, transient percussion and the whistle of loose radio waves. “1004” is a kaleidoscope of refracted melody, with the central loop subdividing into delays and forking off into drones and subtle dissonances – it’s like an optical illusion of sorts, carrying my attention away from the repetitious refrain at the centre without my knowledge, using melodies that mimic the main line and then subtly diverge over time. At times I become clueless as to where to direct my listening – part-transfixed by the central loop, part-enchanted by the ephemera on the perimeter – and it’s at these moments that Norwell’s hypnosis truly takes effect. My focal aperture opens as wide as it’ll go, and all of Grasslands floods in simultaneously.