Danny Norbury’s Light in August was originally released by Lacies in July of 2009. This reissue, on Flau, includes his first EP Dusk, as well as “Fragment 2,” the beautiful closing track from 2012’s Bluebeard. Below is an edited version of my initial review, published by The Silent Ballet in August 2009.
Danny Norbury relishes in creating melodies that are too ambiguous to be called mournful. His music is carefully restrained, and for this reason his compositions have perhaps wrongly been labeled minimalist. Norbury’s music is not overly complicated harmonically or rhythmically, but its spaciousness allows his compositions room to stretch, opening room for interpretation. One track unfurls into the next, and the result is simply beautiful.
Not every song captures the listener’s attention immediately, though some are quite memorable after even one or two listens. Opener “Morning Star” is short, but its architecture is mirrored and expanded upon on the tenth track, “The Evening Star,” imposing an overarching structure. The title and the similarities are obvious enough, but the album is demarcated into two distinct parts by its sixth track, a minute-long interlude, mostly repeating the same high note against screeching overtones, and fading out as low bowed notes hum over the repetition.
The title of the album is taken from William Faulkner’s novel of the same name, though little of the novel’s tensions seem to be present in the music. Norbury admits that he was inspired by the tone of the novel, if not its content. His compositional process involves sketching improvisations on the cello or the piano and then expanding on these improvisations, often removing the original piano part. Several of his tracks include a trace of the piano track, slowly vanishing as the song progresses. When the instrument is present, the chords are often allowed to ring out, full of sustain.
Light in August excels as a narrative instrumental work, emotional and cinematic in nature. It may seem simple at first, yet when one listens closely, one intuits more layers than are initially apparent. By overlaying different rhythms, Norbury gently teases out memorable motifs, and his occasional rhythmic devices blend successfully with the tone of his cello.
Postscript: In 2009, I concluded my review by calling Danny Norbury “an artist to be watched.” We’ve watched indeed, and our initial expectations have been rewarded. We congratulate Flau for reissuing this seminal work, which remains as impressive now as it did back then. (Joseph Sannicandro)