Poppy Ackroyd: Escapement
For the imaginative musician, simplicity of method can often be a powerful ally. It can be easy to get caught up in all the sounds you want on a recording, and bands can sometimes create great works by throwing in bits of every instrument they can think of (The Beatles are perhaps my favorite example). However this is not the case with classically trained British composer Poppy Ackroyd, whose debut record Escapement has been created completely using only sounds drawn from the piano and violin. The results are an exhilarating venture into a dreamlike state of mind and music.
The record opens with calm, alluring beauty on “Aliquot”, which builds softly with piano chords above a line of percussive beats. The song creates a steady climax for the listener with breathtaking violins and elegant flourishes on piano strings that descends into closure as sweetly as it began. The second track, “Rain”, might be my favorite on the record. Opening with a wondrous field recording of rainfall, Poppy serves up a shuffling beat on the violin that supports a pensive melody on the piano. The beat and the piano largely drop out as a melancholy chorus of violins guide the heart and mind into retrospective stasis. The beat picks back up to close out the song as the rain returns.
“Seven” begins with a shimmering amalgamation of piano lines building several tracks into a cohesive brilliance with subdued violins. “Glass Sea” opens with another field recording of chirping birds and provides a lively piano melody. The jaunting rhythm comes to a brief rest as waves crash softly in the background. The imagery captured on this song is nothing short of masterful, transporting the listener to a peaceful day by the seaside, the sun peeking warmly from behind a slightly overcast sky.
“Lyre” opens in a sinister fashion with a rough beat accenting the chilling melody. While this track didn’t move me quite like some of the others, it’s fantastically composed and a testament to Poppy’s immeasurable talent as a pianist. Such is a similar case with “Grounds”. I enjoyed listening to this one, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere with its design and melody. “Mechanism”, the album’s seventh and final track, closes it all out in grand form with subtle and interesting percussive work beneath a web of intricately joining piano melodies and compelling violin harmonies. There is a gorgeous sense of hope and bright, magical exuberance in the final, fading moments that make this one of the best on the record.
To say that Escapement is a casual listen would be undercutting its emotive qualities greatly. Surely you could put this on in the background while you clean, read a book, take a nap, or perhaps even perform your stretch routine but ultimately it deserves serious listening. The themes, while unspoken, are transferred powerfully through the music itself and should be experienced with an open heart and a conscious mind.
MP3: Poppy Ackroyd “Rain”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl