The strings on Light In August are graceful but heavy, gliding laboriously like a boat tugged into harbour on mooring ropes. Piano steps methodically, tentatively – a staircase into a dark attic – and where so often such an instrument setup drifts with a weightless, almost ignorant delicacy, Norbury’s music stoops and strains with the weight of life and memory on its boughs; each smile born from a winch of muscle fibre, each tear forced upward and out in spite of the forces trying to withhold it. The instruments are faded and middle-aged, dusty and warm, with their vocal cords deteriorating ever further with each sombre melodic declarative.
It’s a patient record, with notes drawn out as if biding time with which to plan the next manoeuvre, and little silences flecked with the creaks and shuffles of chairs and posture readjustment. Even climaxes stay within a hushed, monologue intimacy – the title track soars upward but still within arm’s reach, and in spite of its voluptuous spillages of minor key, it holds itself (just barely) within the realm of introspection, extracting the sadness of one rather than projecting its colours across a population of many. The record is like one of those paintings where the brushstrokes protrude from the canvas as thick slugs of paint – colour and emotion as strenuous gestures, lifted up and out of the body like black matter curdling in the stomach.