Cedric Noel Confidently Asks the Tough Questions on 'Hang Time'
Published Nov 12, 2021It's difficult for an artist to remain both prolific and good at their craft, but Cedric Noel's Hang Time — coming a year after his Patterning and Nothing Forever, Everything releases — assuages all doubt.
The Montreal songwriter's latest album wastes no time enveloping listeners in the sort of ambient folk-pop that is his stock and trade. Opener "Comuu" launches immediately into its marching percussion rhythm building fivefold, and all anchored by Noel's vocals. Throughout the record, his voice entrances and commands without overpowering, thanks to his ability to build to a sense of inevitability while remaining soft, even vulnerable.
Take "Dove," a duet between Noel and Common Holly. It doesn't linger in pretense, with the pair beginning the track singing, "I tried to care about trivial things like love / to waste away trivial things like love." The rest of its runtime is spent repeating wordless vocalizations over a simple, reverberating guitar line, but rather than feeling incomplete, the song functions almost like a simple equation for emotional devastation.
Much of the album deals in questions of friendship and allyship. The album was largely written in 2017 and 2018, as Noel contemplated his status as a Black musician in a mostly white indie rock community. This conflict is presented most obviously in "Allies," in which Noel plaintively asks "Are you on my side?" atop a sample of Malcolm X speech. That the otherwise gentle, probing song ends in a cacophony of noise and a garbled yell keeps in theme with the album's moments of mounting intensity, while also speaking to the discomfort in questioning whether or not these allies are in fact genuine.
Noel's occasionally triumphant choruses, bolstered by drum work from SUUNS' Liam O'Neill on seven of 13 tracks, helps to keep the album confident and assured in spite of the difficult questions it asks of love and relationships. Naturally, it often presents as the sort of confidence that can only arise from asking such difficult things. (Forward Music Group)