The Montreal-based artist’s album, inspired by the National Gallery of Canada, is a musical respite for a weary mind ready to stand still.
I have been fortunate not to have endured most of the hardships the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked on us. There is no aspect of the shadow pandemics that’s befallen me, though: insomnia. I’ve never been a great sleeper, this past year, I’ve had more bouts of sleeplessness exasperated by additional stress and anxiety than I have ever had. One of my go-to aids for calming my mind and getting some rest is listening to ambient, meditative music. So when I read that Montreal-based musician Nick Schofield started making instrumental, atmospheric sound loops as a way for combating his insomnia, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit.
Schofield’s latest album, Glass Gallery, has quickly earned itself a spot not only on my night-time playlists but any time of the day I need a spirit cleanser. Schofield is fond of setting boundaries for himself when he sets out to create new work, and with Glass Gallery, he’s limited himself to composing on an 80s vintage synthesizer known as the Prophet-600. For all its icy, angular sounds, Schofield’s instrument is warm and nuanced. His touch is delicate and airy, allowing the analog synthesizer to rise and fall, cycle and repeat, and fill whatever space it occupies, no matter how vast.
That sense of freedom is primarily due to Schofield’s musical muse on Glass Gallery: Canada’s iconic National Gallery in Ottawa. Some aspect of the building inspires each song: its architecture (“Central Atrium,” “Water Court”); its ambiance (“Light and Space,” “Travertine Museum”); its artworks (“Key of Klee,” “Molinarism”). In Schofield’s soundscapes, I lose myself. My thoughts, ricocheting around my mind like a bucket of ping pong balls in a vacuum, settle into the subtle hum and thrum of songs like “Kissing Wall.” Schofield’s sound paintings remind me of how much I miss visiting the National Gallery, my favourite building in the only big city in Canada I would happily move to if you forced me to choose.
Familiarity with his inspiration is not a prerequisite for appreciating Schofield’s work. In his textures and tones, you sense his awe and wonder as he teases out patterns and notes from his observations. And from those impressions flow sounds that evoke solitude and sanctuary, solemnity and spirituality. I hate that my admission of late-night listening sessions might imply that Glass Gallery is music that puts you to sleep because that’s not really what it does for me. Schofield’s sophomore solo record is not a sedative; it’s a respite for a weary mind ready to stand still.