In a world of so much classical song structures it’s really refreshing every so often to hear someone try and shake things up. While this latest record from harp virtuoso Mary Lattimore is certainly rooted in more traditional structures, it tries to break them and explore all kinds of music throughout its stay. Though many of the songs do require a heavy amount of patience, there’s enough gems in here to make your wait worthwhile.
Through a flutter of harps and birds, the album opens calmly on the lush energy of “It Feels Like Floating.” Though Lattimore takes her time the song really opens into some heavy ethereal tones as the song goes on. At first the whole sound can undoubtedly sound like a cheesy sonic representation of heaven, but as the arrangements become more dense, so does the emotional worth of the song. While it certainly could be condensed down into a much tighter package, this opening track really sets the stage for the whole record and takes on so many different faces you’ll be intrigued to follow Lattimore around the next corner.
As “Never Saw Him Again” opens on its own swirl of harp, there’s so much more going on in the voices and synths around it all. Right as the mood of the song feels like it’s trailing off, an even heavier hand comes through as the synths and voices become one massive chord, and one that compresses into more of a noise as the song moves on. Electronic warping and some subtler production send the track in an entrancing direction, with tones of sci-fi and wondrous harmonies sitting in the background. Through the whole mix, Lattimore proves what kind of utterly unique sounds she can make by blending traditional playing with some ambitious production, and a little patience of course.
There’s a much more pointed energy to the plucking on “Hello From the Edge of the Earth” which strangely allows an extra bit of emotional pressure relief throughout the song even without lyrics. As the song moves on, the playing is accented with sharp little glissandos behind the playing to hammer home every little ounce of Lattimore’s intention in the song. Here however Lattimore doesn’t get quite as much variety and leaves the song on a handful of confusing fake-outs.
Before the time-warping even comes into play on “Baltic Birch” there’s already a mesmerizing quality to the way Lattimore is playing this time around. With a much heavier bass in tow, the song moves with even more momentum and gives the harp a much more grandiose quality rather than only a spritely one. Once the song hits its second half there’s a slow crawl of guitars that really start exploring the mystical qualities in Lattimore’s sound and take the sonics into new realms.
Even in the gloomy alt-rock energy behind “Their Faces Streaked With Light and Filled With Pity” Lattimore finds room for her voice. Unlike several of the shorter songs on this record, Lattimore keeps things focused and brilliant throughout to say what she needs to say. While the Cranberries-like guitar washes howl behind her, Lattimore’s playing goes from thematic to absolutely fiery in the song’s final moments to carry things out on a frantic and exhilarating note.
“On the Day You Saw the Dead Whale” opens on immediately stirring hooks, and chooses to ride out much of its time as a slow meditation on this idea. Though it should feel endlessly repetitive, there’s something in the slow glow of the chords and noise behind it that change the emotional context as it goes. This said, it really starts to come together once the bass cuts through to end the song with a little more direction after such a drawn-out style.
Words by Owen Maxwell