Review Summary: Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
I've always preferred instrumental music over all other variations within the art form. Not that I don't enjoy the sound of a singer's voice from time to time, but I often find myself developing a more intimate connection with a song when the music exuded solely from the instruments themselves is the central point of focus. I have a ritual that I enjoy doing when listening to an instrumental piece, whether it be Jazz or Classical music, I always lay back and close my eyes during the whole experience of it all. Alleviating all other senses and simply taking in every note and every vibration that enters my ear. I free myself of all thoughts, and let the mood of the song paint a scene or image in my head. Though sometimes, I find that a song can have the ability to completely take me away from my surroundings. Helping me ascend to an undiscovered, or seldom visited realm within my own mind. If the tone of the song is melancholic, I'll either find myself envisioning scenes within my own life that were heartbreaking or disappointing in some way, or my imagination will illustrate its own visual interpretation of that mood. It's amazing how music has the ability to do this. It doesn't just have to be a mere union of sounds that enter the ear, it can be an experience far more abstract than that.
Poppy Ackroyd's Escapement
is an aptly named debut because, despite being a reference to piano mechanics, it also references the thematic concept of the album. The music is meant to provide a momentary departure from reality that really takes its listener away into its own trancing environment, offering a perceptual experience filled with melodic splendor. Escapement
is of a rather different nature than that encountered in the albums of Poppy Ackroyd's primary musical group, Hidden Orchestra. Escapement
is just as elaborate in its aesthetics, but this album is a bit more personal, as we find Poppy Ackroyd exploring her influences within classical music rather than expanding on the nu-jazz sound of Hidden Orchestra. The album opens with "Aliquot", which really does a great job of foreshadowing the overall style of the album. This song has a kind of subtle dynamism to it, it isn't a spontaneous piece by any means, but there is a constant evolution in its musicianship that tends to express a spectrum of moods and textures. It begins with a weary piano introduction, just a few notes played to provide a calm setting. The strokes of a violin soon enter into the scene, and though it has its moments of mild vigor so as to add a bit of compelling moments into the song, it never ceases to augment the soothing sound of "Aliquot". Both the piano and violin work together thematically throughout the album. There are virtually no other instruments present within Escapement
, because frankly, Poppy Ackroyd has proven that they were simply not needed. She deploys a very unorthodox approach to both instruments, manipulating their sounds to convey something beyond their ordinary characteristics to create unusual timbres and textures. For example, in "Aliquot", we can hear the presence of a guitar within the song, but it is actually her simply plucking the strings of the violin to mirror the nuance of a guitar.
Some of the main highlights of the album are "Rain" and "Glass Sea", two very different songs that exhibit a contrasting arrangement of rhythms and harmonics, yet the two offer a similar enriching experience that nourishes and deepens the whole concept of the album, proving that simplicity can at times be the pinnacle of sophistication. As it name implies, "Rain" begins with the sound of pouring drops falling on a surface. As the rainfall cleanses the scenery, Poppy Ackroyd begins to maneuver a shuffling beat on the violin that sets up a rhythmic framework for the piano arrangements to work upon. Though as "Rain" reaches its musical apex, the piano silently descends to the background, letting the violin take up the spotlight as it expresses a compelling yet pensive sense of melancholia. This is one of those songs that has you withdraw into some other space within your mind. The melody just has this alleviating sensation that relaxes the soul while coaxes the mind to indulge in imagination. It's like this song is offering itself to be the soundtrack to whatever scene our thoughts can create. "Glass Sea", on the other hand, is much more active than atmospheric. The piano notes here are lively and overwhelmed with enthusiasm. There's a lot of changes in tempo happening in this one piece, as we can hear Poppy Ackroyd alternating her dynamics on the piano. The song is composed by a burst of rapid notes that act as a framework, but we constantly witness her throwing in a few rhythmic variations to add some spontaneity to the music, whether it be a repetitive chord sequence in the piano's middle register to augment the solos or just a quick and discreet glissando touch for effect. "Glass Sea" is really more about the notes being played rather than the emotion they convey, being where Poppy Ackroyd's dexterity for the piano really shines to the point of awe.
In my introductory paragraph I talked about the experience of losing oneself in music, to let the sounds and melodies cleanse away anything that is undesirable within the mind so that it's free to indulge in tranquility. Escapement
is an album that offers just that to the listener, it contains songs that simply exist to guide the mind to a meditative state in which we are able to transcend our reality, if only for a brief moment in time. "Lyre" is one of my personal favourites from the entire album because it is very spacious. It has a rather minimalistic composition, just a few notes performed on the piano, a couple brushes upon strings, and a muted thump that acts as a percussive beat. From a musical standpoint, it's nothing special, but the atmosphere it portrays accomplishes more than any invigorating solo or chord arrangement I've ever heard. "Lyre" is more about garnering an emotional response from the listener than impressing them with some display of technical grandeur. You can really get lost in this piece. It's like it defies the laws of space and time, the second it starts your mind dwells into an array of thoughts and daydreams, with this song merely acting as background music to wherever it is that you've descended to. And then, after a moment of deep reflection in thought, you notice a silence. The song is over. It was 4 minutes long, yet you feel as though you barely pressed the play button. And that was the purpose of "Lyre", to provide a moment of introspection. It's gentle, ethereal, and almost hypnotic, it's the soundtrack to your catharsis. I highly encourage this album to anyone who is a fan of music in general. Don't let the 'Classical' tag discourage you, this is a surprisingly accessible album. It's certainly intellectual, but only in its concept, the music itself is as euphonic and engaging as can be. Let the delicacy of Escapement
be your ascension into serenity. Approach it with an open mind and just simply detach yourself from the world for a little while.