Review: Cedric Noel – The Customer

Cedric Noel has become a fixture in Fredericton’s music scene in relatively short order. It’s pretty likely that you’ve seen him play around town, either solo or with his band Redwood Fields. You were probably caught off guard seeing a towering dude stand up and play soft songs. I know I’m always a little surprised at the sounds he makes. For a guy who has only really been playing for two or three years, he’s grown a lot in that time.

The Customer is a winter album, released in January of 2012. Let’s get those things out of the way. A) This review is a year late and B) It’s still a good album that deserves a spin and C) Mike Nason should pay more attention to what he’s reviewing, probably.

We’ve all got our albums that are associated with the seasons in which we listened to them. For example, I’ll always associate Radiohead’s OK Computer with winter because I got it for Christmas the year it came out. But, there are always those few albums that evoke a season regardless of when you listen to it. In this case the opening bars of album opener, “The Inventor II”, almost require the soft crunch of boots in the snow. And that chilly feel is consistent throughout the album. Reverb, soft horns, warm guitar tones… you can certainly hear Noel’s Bon Iver, S. Carey, and Fleet Foxes influences. He wears them on his sleeve. In some ways, it’s sort of fun to imagine that he wandered out into a cabin in the woods and recorded these tracks just as Justin Vernon might. Except, instead, he did all the work in an apartment in Fredericton.

These tracks all work well. While there isn’t a song I’d call a particular standout, what Noel has done instead is deliver thirty seven minutes of calm, calculated, atmosphere. The gentle whistling introduction to “Leaves” is as much of a highlight as the simplicity of album closer “The Road (Cry)”, staggering rhythm of “Mon Pays”, and weird reverse-delay vocal effects on “Niamey, I Come” . The album is a coherent whole, and, as such, the tracks benefit from a full album play-through.  It makes me want to put socks on. Like, really fresh socks. And then, maybe, I dunno… I’d climb under a blanket and spend a stormy afternoon soaking it in. What more could you want from an album? Fresh socks, man.

Is what.

The self-production is generally impressive, though some of the songs suffer from a few odd bits and pieces. There’s a strange sort of feedback hum to “The Inventor II” that sometimes distracts. “Keys” builds in a way that would crush you in a live setting with a full band, but some of the instrument levels maybe aren’t appropriate. Occasionally, a vocal might seem a bit louder than earlier in the track. But, these are minor quibbles for an album with a smooth sound and impressive songwriting.

Noel is the kind of musician for whom less is more. His obvious talent and big voice can carry his narratives without need for much help. The instrumentation here is tasteful and the fact that he played everything on the release is impressive. I almost can’t wait to hear what he’ll be up to in a few years. The Customer is a tremendously solid release for a young dude with a ton of potential. I’m looking forward to the next snowy day so I can test it out proper-like.

The Customer is available on Bandcamp, along with a number of other releases.

Oh, and I lied, I guess? “The Road (Cry)” is totally the standout track, probably.

ALSO: Cedric has since (keeping in mind that I just reviewed something a year old) released two demos on Bandcamp as a preview to his followup album due later this winter. If we’re lucky, it’ll get reviewed before next winter.

- Mike Nason

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