Album Reviews

Mary Lattimore – Goodbye, Hotel Arkada

(Ghostly International) UK release date: 6 October 2023

These six well-paced tracks allow the American harpist’s talents to shine through

Mary Lattimore - Goodbye, Hotel Arkada Pity the harp: is there any instrument more typecast in the orchestral world? Its blissful flourishes are well-recognised but mostly perfunctory, the individual notes fading into the lush, string-laden background. Mary Lattimore, however, knows how to utilise the harp’s full potential. Over the course of Goodbye, Hotel Arkada’s six songs, her playing sounds uneasy, percussive, whimsical, poignant and delicate, with tasteful contributions from her peers and interesting effects.

Opening track And Then He Wrapped His Wings Around Me builds to a lovely climax, setting Lattimore’s melodious performance alongside wordless vocals by Meg Baird and sparkly omnichord that reminds this reviewer of Eurythmics’ Love Is A Stranger. The deep, sustained bass also provides a nice counterbalance to the harp’s daintiness, as is the case on multiple other songs here. Following this is Arrivederci and the almost hypnotic call-and-response dynamic between the harp and the synths, played by former member of The Cure Lol Tolhurst. The notes are a little woozy, as the echo seems to subject them to a form of Doppler effect, and the repetitive, sidling chord sequence paints a picture of wistful stasis.

The most satisfying progression on the record is Horses, Glossy On The Hill, which takes the form of three sections. Section 1 (c. first 3 minutes) opens with an evocative clacking effect signifying the horses’ hoofs, gradually giving way to a fragile, scalic motif which again features some pitch-bending post-production. Section 2 (c. 3:00-5:00) sees this motif moving upstage and a more mellow performance taking its place, accompanied by long, grinding cello notes, while Section 3 is more animated, tumbling notes uninhibited by rhythm, playing forwards and backwards, as a subterranean synth lead lurks.

Oddly enough, one of Goodbye, Hotel Arkada’s best moments doesn’t feature the harp at all. Blender In A Blender spends most of its time on an interplay between Lattimore and Roy Montgomery’s guitar, but the reverberating guitar chords of the coda are captivating, overpowering, bouncing around the stereo field with no sense of place, all-encompassing. Indeed, all of these tracks are elevated considerably by Lattimore’s production chops, as the skilled performances are turned into vast ambient soundscapes and she proves herself to be her best accompanist. If anyone in the alternative electronic world has been unaware of Mary Lattimore up until now, this album is a perfect insight into her creative abilities.

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Mary Lattimore – Goodbye, Hotel Arkada
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