There’s nothing better than a good compilation of a great artist right? Allright, that’s a debatable question but fact is that at least one of us here has a thing for b-sides compilations.
Just recently we shared our thoughts about Liz Harris’ marvouless collection of unreleased songs and today we turn to the various non-album works of harpist Mary Lattimore. Although famed among peers as a session musician she is lesser known outside of the in crowd. With 2020’s Silver Ladders Lattimore finally managed to change that for the better so it seems like a smart choice to open up the vault containing her more abstract compositions. Ghostly International bundled quite a few of these works on two tapes but also decided to merge the best of these works on a 70-minute CD/LP version called Collected Pieces: 2015-2020. So how meta can you get? Since we don’t own a cassette player anymore, we were glad to hear Lattimore’s hidden gems also found a way to other formats.
Just like many other ambient artists Mary Lattimore also connects her music to her direct surroundings. In many cases nature is her main source of inspiration but every now and then she centres her harp play around a fond memory. The 10-minute opener Wawa By The Ocean is Lattimore’s ode to her favourite beachside convenience store, Wawa #700, she visited during summer holidays. If you haven’t heard Lattimore harp skills before this song serves as an ideal introduction. Slow moving hypnotic patterns cascade over each other as they join together halfway in something that comes close to an apotheosis.
Wawa By The Ocean is without doubt a Lattimore-standard and could be rightfully a strong enough concept to expand upon. From these collected pieces however we learn that she has much more to offer which is probably why she is a welcome guest in dozens of bands. On a newer piece, We Wave From Our Boats, she uses her harp to reflect on the first Covid19 lockdown in 2020. Moody loops are combined with gentle synths, which gives Lattimore an edge over orchestral harpists. Sombre tones continue on What The Living Do, while on Sleeping Deer intimate plucks and light droning alternate. If Collected Pieces: 2015-2020 shows us one thing it is that Mary Lattimore is wonderfully versatile and doesn’t shun to use electronica to deepen the sound of her harp. On 13-minute Be My Four Eyes condenses much of this versatility in 13 minutes. On arguably one of her standout works, graceful string play is layered into slowly evolving structures that eventually erupts into a rich soundscape. But what makes the song really interesting is the Tenet-like ending in which most of the slowly built sound structures are inverted.
If you don’t absolutely despise the harp sound this compilation should be on your list of albums to check out this year. Why? Well, Collected Pieces is interesting as it showcases the many skills of Lattimore. If you were not following her already, now it’s the time to pick up on her groundbreaking take on harp music. But if you’re not a close listener it also holds enough atmosphere to be a soothing body of work full of little gestures. Take your pick, just be sure not to miss out.
Label: Ghostly International, 2022
Buy it here: https://ghostly.com/products/collected-pieces-2015-2020
- Wawa by the Ocean
- We Wave From Our Boats
- For Scott Kelly, Returned To Earth
- Your Glossy Camry
- Be My Four Eyes
- Pine Trees (Home Recording)
- We Just Found Out She Died
- What The Living Do
- Polly of the Circus
- The Warm Shoulder
- Mary, You Were Wrong
Marry Lattimore – Harp, synths
Review by Wander Meulemans // 280222