Kemper Norton “Toll” (Front and Follow, 2016)

Kemper Norton 2016My old boiler used to sound like ‘Mladic’ by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, so the musicality in machinery’s tonal shifts and sighs, and how it can create melody, isn’t new to me and is, I believe, in our DNA. Try watching Bjork in Dancer in the Dark (without bawling) for another example, and it’s perhaps because of this that I enjoyed much of this record, but inevitably with music like this, there’s a rub, because if you can’t hear sadness and a deep, inexplicable weariness in the hum of your fridge freezer, or find the sound of your boiler oddly beguiling, you should probably stop reading here. If your idea of music is ‘verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo; bridge, verse, chorus, fade’ then you should definitely save yourself the time it takes to read this, as you won’t get it back and in truth, this music is from a different gene pool to the music you like.

Though new to me, Kemper Norton has made a number of albums, and for this one his label, Front and Follow, describe it as taking place offshore (unlike his earlier ‘rural’ and ‘city’ releases) and explores themes of vengeance, destroyed communities, the perils of nostalgia and myth, as well as the concept of home. All that said, it‘s something of a mystery as to how the listener could ever cop on to this, as those tracks with vocals aren’t noticeably connected to one another, being lyrically oblique, while the rest of it is made up if tonal pieces and shape shifting sounds with a thick melancholic seam.

Ultimately, it’s a conflicting album as while it contains moments of beauty, one has to be patient and find their, and its, frequency. What is undeniable, and (to me at least) impressive, is how it’s the product of a mind with a clear vision and ideas of how to execute that vision. What is even more impressive is how he got off his arse and went and made it. I admire that a lot. But its also saddening to know that the majority of people who visit this site will find it un-listenable, which is understandable, but also a bit of a shame. Some people will like this. Just not likely from this parish.

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