Michael Morley has been consistent, even when deviating into stylistic culs-de-sac, as a trafficker of a peculiar thickness, in atmospheres of imposed lethargy. The halting cadence that dominates Heavens Idleness Awaits gently but firmly nudges aside demands for specific melody and clean harmonies. It’s a grabby maze of quasi-harmolodic fur, and it has been conquered.
The delicate crackling of the recordings and touching sluggishness of Morley’s acoustic guitar-playing — “my first 12-string acoustic, a modern generic Fender,” he says, “It is nothing ostentatious, just functional” — underscore the geographic and, to some extent, cultural isolation inimical to New Zealanders that residents of large continents have the option of taking for granted. The pacing is literally uninterested in hurrying to get anywhere. After all, one can only go so far before having to turn back. His improvisations are uncluttered, yet fill the room with dusk. No big moves or flashy changes are needed to hold the attention; still, the tracks here are bold, persistent, and unhesitatingly lengthy. The tick of the clock seems to fade away as Morley’s churning, distant chords progress. One is encouraged to get inside each ploink without worrying about when it will end, and to absorb each moment fully rather than anticipate the next one. Time and space conclude without devolving into stasis.