Switched On – Mary Lattimore: Silver Ladders (Ghostly International)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

The harpist Mary Lattimore has been busy in the two years since her last album release, Hundreds Of Days, with a good deal of touring and a remix package from that long player featuring work from Julianna Barwick and Jónsi among others.

For Silver Ladders she decamped from her Los Angeles home to the studio of Slowdive and Mojave 3 lynchpin Neil Halstead near Newquay, in Cornwall, working with him in sessions over an intense recording period of nine days.

What’s the music like?

Rather magical. The very different starting points of Lattimore and her producer are ideal, for the twinkling colours of the harp find their ideal match in Halstead’s very subtle guitar and studio work.

The harp remains the most prominent instrument and sets the tone with the beautifully poised Pine Trees, Lattimore’s silvery colours punctuated with pinpricks of intensity.

The album unfolds over seven tracks, with the centrepiece Til A Mermaid Drags You Under. This substantial piece of work begins in the lower register of the harp but gradually takes flight, the upper register adding wider perspectives and a twinkling edge. Halstead’s production touches reinforce the bass with sonorous notes and boost the reverberation, the listener given a sound picture akin to hovering over a vast bay.

Don’t Look is another extended meditation, Lattimore exploring the deep twang of a string in the harp’s lower register but with dreamy guitar from Halstead. The producer also provides thoughtful counterpoint to Sometimes He’s In My Dreams, then murmuring electronics to Chop on the Climbout, Lattimore’s harp flickering in the half light.

The closing Thirty Tulips is particularly beautiful, shifting phases and gently undulating, with a range of different sounds from the harp and broader electronic notes in the background.

Does it all work?

Yes, and repeated hearings only enhance the positive experience this album can bring. For an extra dimension, try the visual score accompaniment by Rachael Pony Cassells, which adds a further layer of enchantment to this already beautiful music:

Is it recommended?

With no hesitation. In these rather fraught times the subtleness of music like this can work wonders – though that’s not to say Mary Lattimore is without expression or imagination. Silver Ladders evokes starry ripples on the nocturnal waters with effortless ease, the listener borne away on the waves.

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