There comes a time every year – twice a year in reality – that looms over all other times, rearing its big ugly head and refusing to go away for weeks on end. As exams approach, I am there again, stranded in that end zone, that twilight region, somewhere between completion and accomplishment, waiting around for the days to roll past in their slow way and desperately clinging to date-stamped items like milk cartons that boast some vestige of what the future, unencumbered by textbooks, biro pens and hours chained to a laptop, might look like. The first set I can take. The weather is pretty bad in June anyway and while there is a distinct sense of wanting it all to be over, there’s not so much meteorological-driven anticipation as there is right about now when the crickets demand you venture outside at night or else be plagued by the warm indoors and the prospect of the beach during the day doesn’t do much more for concentration levels. It’s times like these that music becomes even more important than it otherwise is.
Canadian producer Ryan Hemsworth’s work is loaded with importance. While escapism is often the order of the day when besieged by index pages, summarising and the like, sometimes you just want something that understands how you’re feeling. Hemsworth, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, probably knows a thing or two about being stuck indoors. As that ever-growing list of fantastic Scandinavian artists is evidence of, adverse weather conditions can bring out the best in musicians. Frigid Canada fits keenly into those aural images conjured up by the nascent trap music genre. All codeine-syrup-drenched, slow-moving dreams, blurry beats and hazy outlines of ideas, trap music might have been born in the American south but works exceedingly well within the framework of slurred beats and lazy-paced tracks that Hemsworth has built up further north. And yet, working in a subset some are calling ‘chill-trap’ (as if the bedroom producers of the world needed yet another exclusive category in which to justify their existence), ‘Colour & Movement’ doesn’t readily conform to any sort of convention.
This track, from Hemsworth’s ‘The Last Words’ EP, cuts its ties with the hip-hop world almost entirely bar infrequent bursts of drum machine. At times, it threatens to breach more frenetic territory otherwise occupied by Brits Hudson Mohawke, Rustie and S-Type but never really scales those heights. It doesn’t want to. It doesn’t want to be traditional ‘trap’ or ‘electronic’ or ‘hip-hop’ or align itself with whatever that ephemeral term ‘woozy’ might imply. ‘Colour & Movement’ seems perfectly self-sustaining and inward-gazing to soundtrack any of your garden-variety existential crises brought on by too much time with Microsoft Word. In its ponderous quality, slowly-blossoming seriousness and its pitch-modulated vocals – which seem, alternatively (potentially proportionate to hours with books), hopeful and dejected – ‘Colour & Movement’ appears just that: a reflection on things enigmatic and a sonic portrait of things as transient as colour and movement. It might well say nothing as a song. But when a track welcomes the projection of your inner speculations as this one does, that ceases to matter. Genre and geography are not germane once you hit play and become enveloped in ‘Colour & Movement’.
Ryan Hemsworth – Colour & Movement