Poppy_Ackroyd_Resolve_CoverWhen we got a chance to speak with Poppy Ackroyd this past summer, she was about to release Sketches, an album of solo piano reworks of material from her first two studio albums as well as pieces from an upcoming new work. Now that album has arrived, erasing any possible vestiges of doubt that she is one of the most innovative and exciting artists on the experimental classical scene and a truly distinctive artistic voice.

Resolve finds Poppy building and expanding upon her dynamic and percussive approach to playing the piano in ways both conventional and unconventional. It also find her collaborating in the studio for the first time with other musicians including Manu Delago (Bjork, Cinematic Orchestra, Anoushka Shankar) on hang, Mike Lesirge (Bonobo, Andreya Triana) on clarinets and flute, and Jo Quail on cello. It is a vibrant and mesmerizing record with a positive impetus behind it. 

“Resolve is about the determination to embrace the good things in life whilst dealing with unexpected and challenging difficulties. Finding the light in the dark, facing sadness and loss head on, and developing a growing inner strength.” – Poppy Ackroyd

Continue reading “Poppy Ackroyd – Resolve [One Little Indian]”

With her 2012 debut ‘Escapement’, Brighton-based composer Poppy Ackroyd entered the same rare air as such esteemed innovators of modern classical and electronic music as Nils Frahm and Hauschka. Classically trained on violin and piano, she creates utterly mesmerizing music by manipulating and multi-tracking sounds primarily from these two instruments in sometimes unconventional ways, an approach she expanded upon with her second album ‘Feathers’ in 2015. This year she brings us a flurry of new projects to enjoy starting with her new mini-album ‘Sketches’ in which Poppy reinterprets pieces from her first two records as pure solo piano pieces along with several new compositions. She also has a brand new full-length album in the works for release in November and all this in the midst of performing as part of Hidden Orchestra, who themselves have a wonderful new record out called ‘Dawn Chorus’. I am ecstatic that Poppy was willing take time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for Stationary Travels readers and thus kick-off the very first in our new series of artist interviews called Duologues.

Continue reading “Duologue: A Conversation with Poppy Ackroyd”

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all

When skill, ingenuity, and inspiration meet, magical things can happen; art can happen. Poppy Ackroyd’s dazzling new album Feathers is a case in point.  Skill? The London-born, Brighton-based artist is classically trained and accomplished as both a composer and performer. Ingenuity?  She has developed a unique compositional voice by combining conventional piano technique with unconventional use of the instrument beyond the keyboard itself to create a mesmerizing sound evidenced both in her work as a member of Hidden Orchestra and on her debut solo album Escapement.

As for inspiration, Ackroyd drew upon sources both philosophical and musical. The title of the album was inspired by a line from the poetry of Emily Dickinson: “Hope is the thing with feathers”, invoking an image of birds in flight as a metaphor for “love, loss, hope, and migration”.  But the word feathers also references the quill in the mechanisms of some of the instruments used to make the record, instruments which themselves became part of the inspiration to create and improvise:

“Poppy’s beloved, restored Blüthner grand piano in her studio is again the backbone of the album, providing most of the melodies, bass lines and percussive sounds. Other material originated from improvised recording sessions at the Russell/Mirrey Collection of keyboard instruments in Edinburgh. Having previously spent time there dismantling different pianos to understand how their mechanisms work and make sound, she was given complete freedom on her own in the museum to experiment with around fifty keyboard instruments from the 16th century to the 19th century. Selecting a few instruments for ‘Feathers’ that produced a variety of different timbres, it was again the other sounds these instruments could make that interested her, when treating them as sources for melodic or percussive material…There is an intimate feel to the recordings as these older instruments are not designed to project sound loudly, so the microphones were placed very close to capture the minutest detail.”

In addition to the keyboards, Feathers is graced with Poppy’s violin lines augmented by guest cellist Su-a Lee and congruent field recordings such as ticking clocks, rushing traffic, or pounding surf. The confluence of all of this skill, inspiration, and inventiveness is a magical record of effervescent beauty.  High points for this reviewer are the percussive geometries of ‘Salt’, the musical chronometry of ‘Timeless’, and the melancholic closer, ‘Birdwoman’. Everything moves with elaborate precision like the inner workings of an elegant timepiece or a precious music box. And the title track is utterly stunning with its beautiful piano runs swirling around aching strings.

Feathers is exquisitely mastered as well for optimum clarity and dynamic range. It is simply a joy to listen to.  A well known singer recently proclaimed that “music is art and art should be paid for”. While that is true, much of what is presented as music today falls short of those aspirations.  Feathers does not. It is music that deserves to be heard and art that deserves to be supported.

Album information: http://poppyackroyd.com/music/feathers/

Order from Denovali: http://www.denovali.com/poppyackroyd/

‘Roads’ from Feathers:

Live session for M magazine at Union Chapel (Feathers/Rain)

Noteworthy highlights from the past week of music discovery, releases, previews, and other news.  Daily updates are available on the Stationary Travels Facebook and Twitter feeds and audio/video links to all tracks featured during the month are available on the Songdrop page.

Previews of Upcoming Releases

Poppy Ackroyd | Feathers | Denovali (November)

Poppy Ackroyd follows up her outstanding debut album Escapement with her second full length release called Feathers in November.  The extensive promo for the album on the Denovali site really whets the appetite for this record, especially for those already familiar with Poppy’s wonderful compositional style and her boundless creativity that goes “beyond the keyboard” using all aspects of the piano to create – strings, soundboards, and pedals.

“Poppy’s beloved, restored Blüthner grand piano in her studio is again the backbone of the album, providing most of the melodies, bass lines and percussive sounds. Other material originated from improvised recording sessions at the Russell/Mirrey Collection of keyboard instruments in Edinburgh.”

We can also expect to hear harmonium, clavichord, harpsichord and spine, violin, field recordings and contributions by guesr cellist Su-a Lee.  Check out the beautiful preview track ‘Roads’ and keep your eye on the Denovali site for the official release and upcoming tour dates.

More information: http://denovali.com/poppyackroyd/

Roads’

Carlos Cipa | All Your Life You Walk | Denovali (November)

Denovali makes a strong showing this month with another highly anticipated release, the second full length album from Munich based composer and multi-instrumentalist Carlos Cipa entitled All Your Life You Walk.  Carlos is an accomplished pianist who has shared the stage recently with artists such as Hauschka, Ólafur Arnalds, and Valgeir Sigurdsson and has impressed with his debut The Monarch and the Viceroy and his collaborative EP with Sophia Jani, Relive.  Fans of modern classical, and piano in particular, will not want to miss out this album, especially after hearing the exquisite preview track ‘And Gently Drops the Rain’.

“Carlos Cipa created unique contemporary compositions fraught with beauty, tension and emotional intensity, clearly presenting the unique voice of a composer, who is fascinated by classical and contemporary composers ranging from  MOZART, DEBUSSY or RAVEL to STEVE REICH and DAVID LANG, but is also inspired by modern bands like THE NATIONAL or MOGWAI. Though each piece is framed as a coherent song, it’s all pieces combined that create a musical flow, spanning over the whole album…conceived as concept album ‘All your life you walk’ should be listened to as a whole.”

More information: http://denovali.com/carloscipa

‘And Gently Drops the Rain’ 

Chihei Hatakeyama & GWFAA  | Falling Sun | Rural Colours (November)

The latest release on boutique label Rural Colours is an unexpected, but delightful surprise, a collaboration between ambient guitarist Chihei Hatakeyama and Good Weather for an Airstrike, the solo ambient project of UK musician Tom Honey.  The stunning cover art and generous album sampler that appeared this week promise a sumptuous and absorbing collection of soundscapes that showcases the best of these two artists. While waiting for the official release, why not saunter over to the Bandcamp sites of each where you can find an abundance of their solo material to check out.

More information: http://music.ruralcolours.co.uk/music

Chihei Hatakeyama on Bandcamp: https://chiheihatakeyama.bandcamp.com/

Good Weather for an Airstrike on Bandcamp: https://goodweatherforanairstrike.bandcamp.com/

Album sampler:

To Destroy a City | SUNLESS | N5MD (November)

Chicago-based post rock trio To Destroy a City emerges from a three year quite period following their 2011 debut album with SUNLESS which will be released on N5MD.  Having had a chance to preview the recording, I can tell you that this is a very assured and polished sophomore effort and one that should light up the eyes & ears of post rock fans with its balanced mix of organic energy and atmospheric textures.  The official release is just over two weeks away, but pre-orders are available and you can listen right now to the soaring preview track ‘Last Contact’.  Play it loud and often.

“At times SUNLESS is more electronic leaning than its predecessor, yet is still punctuated with sheets of glacially emotive guitar-work. Intricate electronic beats give way to propulsive live drumming. The synths, while more prominent this time out, fit effortlessly into the TDAC framework…a must-have for fans of God is an Astronaut, Hammock, and Lights Out Asia. SUNLESS will be available on CD/FLAC/MP3 as well as limited edition 2xLP with a limited amount in red/orange/black splatter.”

More information: http://n5md.com/discography/233/SUNLESS

‘Last Contact’

K. Novotny | Gesture & Texture | Preserved Sound (December)

Ambient/Electroacoustic musician K. Novotny from Łódź, Poland will be releasing his newest album Gesture & Texture in December on Preserved Sound which he describes as a “collection of meditations on the soundscape around us and how it relates to the passage of our own lives”.  The music is a style of which I am particularly fond – soft ambient drones adorned with natural field recordings, piano, and deft touches of electronica woven into tranquil soundscapes that caress the ears.  Keep an eye out for announcement of a release date and pre-orders. In the meantime, enjoy the preview track ‘Anāhata’.

More information: https://preservedsound.bandcamp.com/

Anāhata’ 

There Is No Teenage Love | LAHEX |  (January)

There Is No Teenage Love is a project from Los Angeles based musicians Erik Tokle (Whale Fall) and David J. Dowling. Their second full length album LAHEX will be released on 12” white vinyl in January and can now be pre-ordered with an instant digital download.  Two preview tracks are available now and both exemplify the duo’s M.O. which is to “create cinematic soundscapes through improvisation and live looping, manipulating guitars beyond recognition and dispensing with conventions of structure in favor of a post-modern, abstract and painterly approach to composition“.  Both are gorgeous and unfold slowly revealing many layers of tone & melody.  Beautiful stuff.

Order: https://thereisnoteenagelove.bandcamp.com/album/lahex

‘Mid-City Girls’

Recent Releases

Massimo Disceopoli | Parallax | DOF (Sep 1)

Parallax is the first album that drummer and multi-instrumentalist Massimo Discepoli (aka Nheap) releases under his own name.  It has the spirit of an ambient recording, but takes a unique approach in prominently featuring the acoustic drum kit.  While that may sound like a musical oxymoron, it works out quite beautifully.  The key is the approach in which Discepoli’s uses the set in a way that “abandons the role of mere rhythm accompaniment”, instead uses them to add color and atmosphere.  And that doesn’t just mean cymbal washes and soft rolls across the toms. On some tracks Discepoli shows some real chops and delivers thunderous poly-rhythmic jams, yet somehow never spoiling the meditative ambient mood.  Parallax is a seeming paradox that ends up being a delight to listen to.

Order: https://doflabel.bandcamp.com/album/massimo-discepoli-parallax-dof001

‘Settling Down’

(ghost) | A Vast and Decaying Appearance | N5MD (Oct 14)

Connecticut-based musician Brian Froh has delivered his second album under the moniker (ghost) on the N5MD label entitled A Vast and Decaying Appearance.  At times poetic and reflective (see his words below), at others deliciously glitchy in a way that reminds one of his label-mate Ocoeur, and at others airy & melodic like Tycho, it all comes together for a great listen.  A must listen for fans of intelligent and emotive electronica.

a vast and decaying appearance
withered and broken
spread thin
hanging on by a thread

distorted beyond recognition
dwindling in my view
a clouded shadow
on jagged stone

More information: http://n5md.com/discography/235/A-Vast-and-Decaying-Appearance

‘A Vast and Decaying Appearance’

Kiasmos | Kiasmos | Erased Tapes (Oct 27)

We’ve been enjoying collaborative sounds from Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rassmussen as Kiasmos for several years and now thanks to the duo’s focused efforts in 2014, we finally we have a complete full-length album in the Erased Tapes catalog.  Was it worth the wait?  Absolutely.  It is nothing less than sublime, hitting the sweet spot of every genre it references – techno, IDM, modern classical, and ambient.

“Made in Ólafur’s newly build studio in Reykjavík, Iceland, a majority of the album was recorded using acoustic instruments next to a variety of synthesizers, drum machines and tape delays. It features a live drummer, string quartet and Ólafur performing on the grand piano, producing an ambient, textured sound, which makes it a perfect home listen and equally danceable record.”

I suspect most readers of ST are already enjoying this album, but if not, don’t waste anytime checking it out.  A fine way to do that is this stream and track-by-track description hosted by Drowned in Sound here:  http://ow.ly/DFin7

Order: http://www.erasedtapes.com/store/index/ERATP062

‘Burnt’

Luke Howard | Two & One |  (Oct 30)

Australian composer and pianist needs little introduction. His latest recording Two & One is now available in digital format and is released in conjunction with his new photo book of the same name consisting of fifty-four carefully selected photos from travels throughout Australia, North America and Europe.  Fans of his last album Sun, Cloud  will be right at home as he delivers another set of fine compositions melding piano and electronic orchestrations with a  touch of the cinematic. In particular, ‘Hold Me Through’, ‘Oculus’, and ‘Nocturne’ are exceptionally lovely.

Visit Luke’s Bandcamp page to get the album.  The photo book and a book of concert tour posters are also both available for purchase their.

Order: http://music.lukehoward.com/album/two-one

Sentimental Machines | Less |  (Oct 30)

Sentimental Machines is a collaborative project between Italian sound artist Attilio Novellino and electroacoustic musicial Saverio Rosi.  Having performed together at numerous festivals and art events, the duo sees their first studio album Less released on the Dronarivm label.  It is a collection of six lovely tracks featuring “close-ups of melancholy piano on a vaguely industrial flow…mixing old musical instruments (piano, pump organ, tape delay and analog echo machines), field recordings and laptop treatments in order to highlight the sentimental aspect behind these electroacoustic compositions.”.   Highlights in particular are the elegiac ‘The Shining Ground’ and the mesmerizing ‘Dogma – Homage to Arvo Pärt’.

Less is available in digital format or in a limited run of 3” CDr in a specially boxed package.

Order: http://dronarivm.com/2014/10/23/sentimental-machines-less/

Sophie Hutchings | White Light |  (Oct 30)

The latest recording by composer and pianist Sophie Hutchings is a gift of music and poetry offered by the artist as a free download to enjoy in between her last studio album Night Sky and the next one to come.  It is a collection of exquisite solo improvisations recorded in a church hall in here hometown of Sydney, Australia.  Fans of Sophie’s work or solo piano in general will no doubt welcome this present into their collections with delight and gratitude while looking forward to her next project.

White Light:
With no wind and no sound
substance in the silence
a rest in fading skies
when light dips to gloaming
a subtle closing in
something whispering in the silence
shadows toward darkness
motionless on a mountain
the lonely fragrance of earth after rain
lay still
stretch out your arms and see

Download: https://sophiehutchings.bandcamp.com/album/white-light-free

Noteworthy highlights from the past week of music discovery, releases, previews, and other news.  Daily updates are available on the Stationary Travels Facebook and Twitter feeds and audio/video links to all tracks featured during the month are available on the Songdrop page.

Previews and Singles

Siavash Amini | What Wind Whispered to the Trees | Futuresequence (Oct 6)

I have developed a real fondness for the deeply atmospheric and emotional work of Siavash Amini.  His album Till Human Voices Wake Us, inspired by the poems of T.S. Eliot and released earlier this year by Umor Rex, is already on my best of 2014 short list. I am very pleased to see that his next album will be released by Futuresequence in October.  What Wind Whispered to the Trees is likewise drawn from literary inspiration, this time on the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky. The preview tracks are simply gorgeous and the dense textures and raw strings render the new songs more effusive in keeping with the epic source material they reference. Expect a gushing review soon. I recommend this one unreservedly.

Pre-order: http://www.futuresequence.com/releases/what-wind-whispered-to-the-trees/ly

‘What Wind Whispered to the Trees’ by Siavash Amini

Hammock | The Sleepover Series Vol.2 (Sep 23)

Volume Two of Hammock’s beloved The Sleepover Series is due to be released in the next couple of weeks. Inspired during a retreat in Big Sur, the project was interrupted early in it’s life when Marc Byrd needed to take time off for neck surgery. It is clear from the narrative Marc shares about the album that is both very personal and put together thoughtfully. He says, “As I began to heal, Andrew and I slowly started working again and the aesthetic of Volume 2 began to emerge. We did our best to just “follow the sound” and stay out of the way, attempting to leave space and texture as opposed to specific and linear melodic phrases”. I dare say this needs no more introduction than that.  Follow the link below to read the rest of what Marc has to say about the project and to pre-order the album in digital format, on dual CD, or as part of specially packaged bundles with volume one.

Order: http://shop.hammockmusic.com/album/the-sleepover-series-volume-two

‘Original Light’ by Hammock

Poppy Ackroyd + Lumen | Escapement Visualized DVD | Denovali (Sep 22)

Originally released in December 2012, Poppy Ackroyd’s Escapement was a revelation, a delightful experimental excursion into the possibilities of the piano played in both conventional and unconventional ways and which was as surprising as it was beautiful.  This month, Denovali will be releasing a new DVD edition which presents each of the 7 pieces accompanied by a unique synchronized black & white short film created by Lumen (Bristol UK based visual artist Tom Newell).  Sure to be a treasure for fans of the album as well as those who have not yet discovered it’s pleasures.

Information: http://denovali.com/poppyackroyd/

Melorman | The Dusk and You

‘The Dusk and You’ was an unexpected treat posted by Melorman, Athens based electronic music project of Antonis Haniotakis.  It is a lovely downtempo summer reverie in sparkling tones, a musical confection that both soothes and lifts the spirit.

Michael Price | Colliding

Composer Michael Price, well known for his soundtrack work and recently featured on Stationary Travels for his collaborations with cellist Peter Gregson, posted this gem on his Soundcloud page, which he simply described as “effected piano joy for your ears”.  ‘Colliding’ is exactly that.  A sublime piece and generously offered as a free download.

Orbit Over Luna | Drone Improvisation

Shannon Penner, who records ambient & post rock music as Orbit Over Luna, recently acquired some new gear and used it to create this mesmerizing drone improvisation which fans of ambient guitar will appreciate.  Shannon also wrote about the new setup and how it has altered his approach and sparked his creativity in an interesting post on his WordPress site (link below).  Although this might herald some new directions and new recordings, it did put me in the mood to listen to his last full length release, Transit.  If you enjoy this improvisation, I feel safe in saying you will love that album as well and look forward to what he comes up with next.

Blog post: http://wp.me/p3osUp-4q

Transit on Bandcamp:  http://music.orbitoverluna.com/album/transit 

Recent Releases

Kakurenbo | Take, Run, Lookback | Unperceived Records (Sep 7)

Unperceived Records is a new independent label just launched by composer & musician Harnes Kretzer based in Bonn, Germany. Take, Run, Lookback by Japanese duo Kakurenbo is the first new release in its catalog and constitutes a promising start. This is a finely textured electroacoustic ambient journey that skillfully blends eastern and western motifs across 5 lovely tracks.  The EP is available in digital form on a pay what you want basis or as a mini-CD in attractive handmade paper sleeve packaging.

Pre-order: https://unperceivedrecords.bandcamp.com/album/take-run-lookback

‘Dokoka’ by Kakurebo

Kerry Muzzey | The Architect | Kirbyko Music  (Aug 26)

Although modern classical composition is Kerry Muzzey’s main avocation, I actually discovered him through his ambient post-rock side project called Candlepark Stars.  Several weeks ago he released his latest full length album called The Architect which was recorded with the Chamber Orchestra of London.  I will admit I have not yet heard the complete album, but I have enjoyed several performance videos Kerry has published along with a nice making-of featurette, all of which are available on his You Tube channel and I look forward to spending more quality time with the music.  The Architect is available on iTunes and on CD via Amazon (links below).  Fans of modern classical with a cinematic style will definitely want to pay attention to this one.

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/kerry-muzzey-the-architect/id907580592

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Kerry-Muzzey-Chamber-Orchestra-London/dp/B00MV4GR9G

‘The Heart Needs’ by Kerry Muzzey and Chamber Orchestra of London

Yuki Murata | The Gift | Ricco Label  (Aug 6)

This solo album by pianist Yuki Murata of the neoclassical/post rock ensemble Anoice is an album I almost overlooked, but fans of piano and modern classical music should not make that mistake. The Gift is a lovely collection of solo pieces and ones accompanied by violin, viola, and flute.  The approach is conventional (no electronics or experimental treatments and effects), but is elegant in both style and execution.  A fine album to start or end the day with.

Pre-order: https://unperceivedrecords.bandcamp.com/album/take-run-lookback

‘in the morning’ by Yuki Murate

AlbumsIn this edition of Mix & Remix, we’ll feature two sets tracks that involve reciprocal arrangements between two pairs of artists each covering the work of the other.   First we have a the French trio Fragments collaborating with Scottish artist and member of Hidden Orchestra, Poppy Ackroyd.  The second set will feature electronic artists Apta collaborating with fellow UK artist Row Boat (Mark Wardale).  In both cases we find the joy at the heart of mix & remix – artists showing appreciation for each other’s work, each able to render the other’s work truthfully and yet stamp it with their distinct style and sensibilities.

Fragments & Poppy Ackroyd

Fragments is a trio based in Rennes, France, who delicately blends folk sensibilities with electronic music to create a shimmering and bright sound. This makes for a fascinating collaboration when paired with the intricate, neoclassical leaning music of Poppy Ackroyd.

We begin with the Fragments song ‘Off the Map’, which features a subtle, scratchy rhythm, acoustic guitar, and the shimmering sounds of keyboard and glock and a gently building crescendo.  It is a bright & uplifting piece. In the creative hands of Poppy Ackroyd, it is still has a brightness to it, but she coats the piece in dust.  It is scratchier, more organic, and more indirect as percussion becomes more prominent and reverse loops carry the melody.

The second pair of tracks in this collaboration are the original and remixed version of Poppy Ackroyd’s composition, ‘Seven’ from her outstaning solo album ‘Escapement’.  The original piece features an intricate, clockwork percussion line over which piano and strings weave their magic. It is busy, yet delicate and precise.  Fragments then takes the song and wraps it in electronics and acoustic rhythm guitars to give a shimmer and a brighter feel.

‘Off the Map’ by Fragments

‘Off the Map’ remixed by Poppy Ackroyd

‘Seven’ by Poppy Ackroyd

‘Seven’ remixed by Fragments

Artist information:

Poppy Ackroyd on Denovali Records

Fragments on Facebook 

Apta & Row Boat

This next group of tracks were all recently released together as an EP called ‘Fracture’ by UK artists Apta and Row Boat with the express purpose of featuring their remixes of each other’s work.  The original version of Apta’s song ‘Slowly, Home’ feels like a quiet walk down an open road on a sunny day. It has an easy flow and feels both intimate and bright. Mark Wardale’s music as Row Boat, on the other hand, evokes wide canvas Scandinavian landscapes with rich atmosphere, big percussion, and storming crescendos and he lends all of these qualities to his interpretation.

This flows right into the Row Boat original, ‘Kämpaglöd’, a rousing post rock piece driven by a distinctive and powerful cadence on the drums. It has a swagger and a boldness about it before winding down to an atmospheric outro. In reworking the song, Apta opts for percussion lines that are more hypnotic than pounding. This allows the piano to drive to the song while a variety of electronic tones swirl around the melody. It remains a very dynamic piece, equally enjoyable, but with a different aesthetic.

Also note that the Fracture EP includes a pair of bonus tracks, one by each of the two artists.

‘Slowly, Home’ by Apta

‘Slowly, Home’ remixed by Row Boat

‘Kämpaglöd’ by Row Boat

‘Kämpaglöd’ remixed by Apta

Artist Information:

Apta on Bandcamp 

Row Boat web site