Krhko, krhko... mikrofon je instrument, klavir i violina su mikrofoni.
Pianist, composer, violinist. Poppy Ackroyd is a classically trained musician who not only plays her instruments traditionally, but also uses drumsticks, e-bows, picks and all her fingers on both hands to produce sounds her instruments weren’t necessarily designed to make. With a master’s degree in piano performance in the pocket, she shapes and multi-tracks her sounds via a computer and a live microphone. Her music is fragile, tender and frail, like a soft hand that gently caresses you to calm down. This will be her first show in the Netherlands, and she will perform together with composer and sound designer John Lemke.
Poppy Ackroyd debuts on Denovali with a delicate suite exploring the nuances of neo-classical piano and violin composition with experimental techniques. The 'Escapement' refers to both the mechanical part of the piano that enables the hammer to be released, so that the string can vibrate once struck, and more obviously to the sense of emotive catharsis her instruments potentially provide. Rhythms are tapped out on the body of a grand piano she restored and plucked from a violine with E-bow and fingers, then recorded, multi-tracked, and intricately layered with melodies, chords and field recordings of rain and birds made in the Outer Hebrides and whilst driving around her adopted home base, Edinburgh. These methods beautifully capture a sense of atmosphere, imbuing the seven concise parts with a wending narrative and radiant serenity, bordering on melancholic, but p'raps best described as wistful. RIYL Max Richter, Olafur Arnalds, Hauschka. - boomkat
Escapement’ – the physical act of escaping…
The world is filled with sound. Our daily lives, as city dwellers, are filled with noise and clutter. Too many sounds to process. Too many to filter out. From rush hour traffic to work men digging up street after street after street. From the sounds of sirens to the barking of dogs and squawking of seagulls. From the noisy chatter of citizens going about their daily lives to music filtering from pubs, cafes and restaurants; we are surrounded. So we go to the countryside to escape and we use words like “peace and quiet” our minds resting for a while from the world of noise we left behind. And yet sounds still exist. A babbling brook. The birds in the trees. The deer in the woods. The snap of twigs and heather under foot. They exist. The only difference is that the volume, quantity and intensity of sound is reduced, allowing the brain to more readily process the results. And these sounds, well, these sounds and the ability to process them effectively spills into experimental music creating backdrops and landscapes known as field recordings. There are not many artists in the ambient world who do not utilise the sounds of the world that they exist in. From the busy street to the peaceful mountainside, our world of noise is captured time and again on record.
Pianos make noise too though. Didn’t you know? And I’m not talking about those lovely tones that seep out as keys are pressed and pedals held. No.
’Escapement’ – the part of the mechanism in a piano that enables the hammer to be released, so that the string can vibrate once it is struck.
The idea that the piano is simply an instrument that you press on ivory to create pretty sounds really is for the early part of the 20th Century. Internally, the piano is equally as beautiful, equipped with strings, as playable as the keys. These can be plucked or strummed, hammered or hit and can have all sorts of odds and ends attached to add depth, resonance and interest to the sound as the hammer strikes as the keys are played. ‘Prepared piano’ it has become known as and has been developed into a fine art form by the likes of Hauschka.
And like her contemporaries, Edinburgh based artist Poppy Ackroyd captures the potential of the piano, and also the violin, as more than simple objects to be used conventionally. Utilising the instruments not only to create wonderful melodies and harmonies but also adapting them as methods of percussion and texture Ackroyd has produced a work of depth and beauty simply by recognising that sound is everywhere and the possibilities endless. This sound is easily created and captured and through hard work, practice and, I imagine, a great deal of patience she has produced a work that embodies everything the piano and violin have to offer. Every single sound on this record (bar a few select field recordings) was created using these two simple instruments.
But this is not just a record about adaptation and noise. This is much more, as Ackroyd displays classical skills to match the best of the modern movement. This is not modern contemporary minimalism. This is classical music steeped in tradition and history and theory. It is intelligent in its construction but even more impressive in terms of its delivery and performance. A gifted pianist and violinist Ackroyds music is reminiscent of Ludovico Einaudi and would not be out of place being performed in some of the concert halls that he himself frequents such is the assured sound of her work. This really is an accomplished record, which sets the bar very high in terms of construction, performance and delivery.
‘Escapement’ then is all about sound. It’s about escaping from the sound and it’s about letting sound escape. A release of emotion through sound. And it’s a triumph.
- Alexander Monken for Fluid Radio
A garden awakening. Leaves rising to the dew. Petalled heads turning to greet the sun. Insect business beginning. Rain. Drops splash revive green. A watcher`s lonely hand upon misted glass. A metronome ticks with some urgency. Poppy`s knuckles tap and rattle out a rhythm. Peak after peak. Running, running after love. Heart beat faster. Pianos hammered like dulcimers, Kashmiri santoor. A dance of tenderness viewed through muslin, warm white cotton, transparent with morning. Thunder distant, hushed. Storm and danger passed / past. Hurt cradled in a lap until it is calmed. A violin weeps and mystery unravels with bright but gradual illumination. A wedding waltz stolen from chances beyond Coppola dark interiors. Smiles and celebration, frozen like photographs, unaware, brief moments uncaring, of the future. Nature in close-up. Milk dropping on milk. The flimsiest of castles erected in stop motion, crashing down to concentric infinity.
The ethereal and contemplative debut from the Edinburgh based Poppy Ackroyd is now available from the ever reliable Denovali records.
Poppy Ackroyd has just released Escapement through Denovali Records, her debut album in which she examines the potential that lies beyond traditional structure and composition. Originating from London, Ackroyd is a classically trained musician who has worked extensively with the likes of Hidden Orchestra.
Her musical roots are evident on Escapement, which bears all the hallmarks of a wonderfully composed classical piece, however, what it manages to do is create an extension upon the grounds which a traditional composition is based. Approaching the instruments in novel and unique manners to achieve unrecognisable sounds, both intriguing and captivating, Ackroyd adds great depth and mystery to a solid and enticing framework.
Due to the experimental nature of the music contained on Escapement, Ackroyd felt that it was essential to the process to record and perform the music herself. From her home studio, she painstakingly constructed the album, using not only the instruments, but also sampling elements of nature through field recordings. Birdsong and rainfall are just two examples of the natural world samples which can be heard throughout.
âAliquotâ and âSevenâ are standout tracks which lie somewhere in the worlds between film score and contemporary instrumental, whereas âGroundsâ goes beyond that and escorts us to somewhere else altogether, somewhere unknown and magical. It comes as no surprise to learn that the performer has also had a great deal of experience in theatre and interpretative dance, as well as performance art, as fractions of these can all be felt on Escapement.
There is a joy and delicacy which permeate this release, one which commands not only initial attention, but which lingers and ferments long after its final chord, enticing and calling for a repeated listen. Escapement changes into many things as it shyly becomes more familiar; joyfully melancholic and fragile, yet with a strength that lifts it far beyond the watery inconsequentiality which can damage such light compositions.
A wonderful record to discover just as we prepare to wrap up 2012, it is great to hear that Poppy Ackroyd will be touring early in the New Year. - Colin McCracken
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. - Hernan M. Campbell
On her enchanting debut, Poppy Ackroyd makes the most of her favorite instruments, turning them into virtual drums, harps and bells, while retaining their popular timbres. That’s not a drum machine we hear; it’s a drumstick or hand on wood. On Escapement, Ackroyd escapes typical modes of composition and performance, coaxing new sounds from old sources. Hauschka’s prepared piano comes to mind, as does Nils Frahm. Already, she seems poised to join their ranks.
The beauty is in the bloom. Because Ackroyd is a multi-instrumentalist, she often highlights one of her instruments at the beginning of a song before shifting to another. When these shifts occur, the results can be transcendent. In “Rain” (which also includes field recordings of the likely suspects), the shift to strings arrives at 1:28, but the full bloom begins at exactly 2:00; in “Seven”, the notes that affect the heart also begin at 2:00 with the introduction of a third ivory melody. These are not long songs, but they are long enough for one to have settled in before these shifts occur. There’s no telling which instrument is her primary companion; just when one thinks, “oh, the artist is obviously better at violin”, she surprises listeners with new capabilities on the piano, and vice versa. The final turn is the loveliest, a moment in which all elements come into play. Ackroyd saves this for the 2:20 mark (so late!) of “Mechanism”, the album’s closing track. In this moment, all of the musical seeds seem to sprout at the same time.
It’s not surprising to learn that Ackroyd is classically trained, or that she has worked with theatre; these pieces betray their pedigree in a complimentary fashion. Yet it’s not enough to be classically trained; one also needs a certain degree of talent, and an imaginative instinct. These variables serve the artist well, but perhaps neither of these is as telling as her smile; as seen in the second video, she clearly enjoys what she’s doing, and this joy is contagious. We hope to hear more from Ackroyd in the new year, and from the accomplished sound of this debut, there’s every indication that we will. - Richard Allen
With Escapement, London-based composer and performer Poppy Ackroyd provides a moving, immersive experience using little more than the bare necessities.
Noted for exploring the piano beyond the keys, she tackles the instrument with a sense of adventure and finds that there are more sounds to discover beyond the chords and scales. Throw the violin into the mix and Escapement takes shape as a sprawling, stimulating record, indeed.
Ackroyd’s debut album is the result of the last few years of discovering sounds from violin and piano and subsequently recording and multi-tracking them. With the exception of a few field recordings, like birds from the Outer Hebrides for instance, Escapement is entirely comprised of sounds, rhythms and melodies from piano and violin.
Ackroyd is the only musician on the record. She also recorded and produced the music herself.
It is clear from the outset that this is a very personal, very intricate project from the Edinburgh-based musician. She explores the appointment of rhythm, sometimes tapping up to five beats from various parts of the instruments and layering them on top of each other in percussive harmony. The music was recorded on a recently restored grand piano and through one microphone in Ackroyd’s home studio.
The angular approach to sound creation is truly unusual, with Ackroyd’s sense of adventure proving captivating and infinite through the vast caves of each piece. There are seven tracks on Escapement and they all flow into each other, knitting a tale of escape and relief.
“Aliquot,” the first piece, opens delicately with the brushing of strings on the piano and plucks of violin string. Ackroyd builds to a beautiful tapestry, unfolding a magical world like the doorway to a garden while building her experimental command. The path to discovery is one she walks with the listener, recounting the universe of Escapement one note at a time.
“Seven” uses rhythm from hitting the piano and folding out chord progressions. The layering work in this piece is something else, but it’s Ackroyd’s sense for the whole song that really makes this number shine. The violin pulls in at just the right moment to accent the music’s emotional bulk, seizing the opportunity to once more build sounds to poignant climax.
Whether she samples the Scottish deluge on the aptly-titled “Rain” or calls on impossible noises on the captivating “Grounds,” Poppy Ackroyd has delivered something remarkable with her debut. Escapement is an extraordinary record indeed, an album that will find plenty of space and time in my player in the coming months. - Jordan Richardson
One might expect the calibre of music on Escapement, the debut album from Poppy Ackroyd, to be of a particularly good standard given the classical training background of the violinist and pianist.
Turning years of theory, practice and performance into successful solo song writing, performing and recording may not be such a surety these days though, given widespread access to music technology and a competitive UK market. For Ackroyd then, as collaborations with eclectic collective Hidden Orchestra and an assortment of soundtracks for animations, contemporary dance productions and documentaries suggest, the journey towards producing successful music has begun already.
Aside from showcasing Ackroyd's talent, this album is extraordinary for another reason: Escapement was created entirely from the sounds produced by violin and piano, recorded via one microphone. By mapping out, twisting, slicing, overlapping, overlaying and manipulating audio in an unobtrusive way, the Edinburgh-based musician has created an atmospheric world which stylistically, sounds something like Steve Reich meeting Yann Tiersen at a Ludovico Einaudi listening party: hypnotic and mesmeric enough to capture attention, short and charming enough to hold focus and flow.
By using delays, echoes and reverb to great effect and building from the gentle glissando of piano strings and plucking of violin strings up to a sweeping crescendo of layers, opening track 'Aliquot' is the perfect introduction to Ackroyd's work.
Her use of motifs and repetitive string or piano melodies throughout the 31 minute album wraps most of the tracks up in a cold mathematical air, warmed from the centre by lush warm arrangements. Brilliant fourth track 'Glass Sea' is one such example, with its hammering of the same one mid-scale piano note matched by a repeated and richer flourish higher up the keyboard, all underscored by sparse percussion and just-audible coastal field recordings.
The mini-soundscapes of 'Rain', 'Grounds' and 'Mechanism' are particularly beautiful songs too, simplistic yet cinematic, structured and somehow unpredictable in parts.
Overall, the seven tracks offer a sublime insight into a musical talent that straddles both old and new, harnessing the power and range of two very versatile instruments along with innovative use of samples and manipulation through technology. A must for fans of Silvain Chauveau, Dustin O'Halloran and Max Richter.
- Lyle Bignon
Escapement was #1 in ABC's Quiet Space Top 50 Albums of 2012
Beautiful pensive music
An article about Poppy, Nils Frahm, Max Richter and new Classical Music in Die Ziet...
This piano and violin virtuoso has created a lush and sonically captivating album using only herself, a violin and a piano... (10/10 - Violent Success)
I’ve yet to see the subtlety and nuance of [Thomas] Newman’s contemporary classical compositions be outdone, but Poppy Ackroyd gives him a run for his money with crescendos... (9.1/10 - Earbuddy)
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... (8.3/10 - Surviving the Golden Age)
Ambient Experimental Beauty 12/15 from Musikreviews
Q&A with Poppy Ackroyd of Hidden Orchestra and Denovali Records | Interview Features
London born musician and composer Poppy Ackroyd is a remarkable creative in modern times, utilizing her talents through a classically trained path in piano and violin with a visionary and expansive approach to crafting lush sonic worlds. Retaining many elements of the liner configurations that many forms of classical music contain, the delicate and soft breathing nature of her approach to music is what makes the music come alive. Solely utilizing her two main instruments of focus through her music career, she manipulates and layers tracks for heavenly sounds in a modern classical form.
As a member of the Hidden Orchestra, she has been afforded a path around the world that has given her a deeper dynamic into the range and complexity of her music and this has sprouted to life with her solo music. Experience and training manifesting through the principle connection of love through art and living in the now is one thought that comes to mind when sitting back and absorbing the sounds she creates. Taking a considerable leap in artistic differentiation to the Hidden Orchestra, her solo material has become a favorite source of relaxation.
Releasing the full length Escapement on Denovali Records really opened up her talents to the staff at SCV and we have been glued to that creation since. The feeling created is all its own yet sounds as soothing as anything released in the classical domain. Enjoy this interview with Poppy Ackroyd as we dive into her solo work and further expand on the approach she has with music.
Q&A with Poppy Ackroyd
Conducted by Erik Otis
SCV: Hello Poppy Ackroyd, wanted to first compliment you on your record Escapement, it’s a wonderful record and something that I find to be one of the best albums in my collection in recent times.
Poppy Ackroyd: Thank you.
SCV: How much material are you actively writing for your solo projects now and how much time went into tracking the material heard on Escapement?
Poppy Ackroyd: I am trying to write as much as I can but I am away a lot at the moment so it is difficult to find long enough periods of time to get lost in the music and be really creative. I have a few different projects that I want to do so after my tour in May I am planning to spend as much time as possible in the studio.
SCV: Was there a particular feeling that you wanted to achieve before compiling the songs for the album or did you choose from separated materials and constructed an album that way?
Poppy Ackroyd: From the start I knew exactly what I wanted the create with this album, there was definitely a clear vision and concept from the outset. A few ideas began life in other projects but they appear very differently in this context. Each track was created in quite a similar way – they stand alone, but also are very much part of the album as a whole.
SCV: I really love the cover for the album, was there a specific intention that you had with it? What do you think of the most when you look at it?
Poppy Ackroyd: The artwork is by my friend Rosie Walters. I love what she does and I asked her to create something in her style but using the mechanism of the piano as a starting point. The cover incorporates the mechanisms of both an upright and grand piano along with a little bit of her own magical illustrative world.
SCV: I am very interesting in your method of instrumentation and how you cut and layer all of this together. What are some of the most important elements for you when creating new material? Do you see yourself creating more music in the form that you have or do you look to expand and create entirely new types of music for your solo releases?
Poppy Ackroyd: I really enjoy the process of shaping the tracks in the way that I do. The sound world I like to create is quite pointillistic, and I think the way I worked on Escapement – chopping, manipulating and layering the audio files – is important for that. Saying that, the last track that I worked on for the album, “Glass Sea”, was a bit different. For this track the main piano line is more of a complete composition in itself, it works alone without the beats and other sounds. This was a really nice way to work too as it involved more time at the piano and less in front of the computer.
SCV: The Hidden Orchestra is a group of yours that I absolutely love. What type of words has the people in the group given you on your album? Any special experiences with showing friends, family or colleagues your work that really stick out in your mind?
Poppy Ackroyd: Joe Acheson who composes all of the music for Hidden Orchestra is my partner, and he is amazingly supportive of my solo work. We live together and both work at home. It is great to both be creating in the same space and I have learned so much working with him over the years. My family and friends have also been very supportive too but only a few of them heard the music during the process. The dancer/choreographer Maite Delafin and sound designer/composer John Lemke were my main sounding boards throughout writing Escapement, I really value their feedback and can always rely on them to be completely honest with it.
SCV: When you put your art into the world, what type of affects would you like it to have?
Poppy Ackroyd: I am not sure… I suppose I hope that my music will resonate emotionally with some people, perhaps it might help them in some way or it would be nice if it just makes them smile.
SCV: With your recordings containing many layered parts from your own hand, how will the live set up translate? Do you have guests coming in? Loops? I have not been able to see any footage of you performing so I am very curious as to know how you flesh your sound out live.
Poppy Ackroyd: For the live show I am working with John Lemke. I much prefer to perform with other people rather than on my own, and John is really good at what he does and always great to have around. Using a mixture of loops, backing tracks and samples we are recreating the album as live and as accurately as possible. For the tour in May I will have visuals for the first time. They are made by Lumen from Bristol and are beautiful. Very soon I would like to have string players too but at the moment it is simpler to travel just the two of us.
SCV: Who are some of your closest musical associates and what contemporary artists have really struck a chord within you?
Poppy Ackroyd: Artists in recent years that have really excited me are Origamibiro (Cracked Mirrors and Stopped Clocks), Thomas Stronen (seeing him perform live is amazing), Aphex Twin, PJ Harvey (White Chalk and Let England Shake), Thom Yorke and Nils Frahm (7 Fingers and Felt).
SCV: We tend to ask this to everybody as we love film so much, any favorite film that comes to mind?
Poppy Ackroyd: I find it hard to choose a favorite film, but if I had to it would probably be Down by Law by Jim Jarmusch.
SCV: To end the interview, we wanted to ask you one more question. What are the most important qualities of being a musician for you? What makes you feel really comfortable and secure about the path you have chosen and the worlds you live in now?
Poppy Ackroyd: I think it is important to work hard and to do everything the best you can. I think if you are honest in your music, in the creation and the performance, special things can happen. I think it is important to challenge yourself so that you can develop and learn, and also keep things exciting and fresh. I am not sure I do feel comfortable and secure! It definitely feels like this is the path that I should be on, but most of the time I find it terrifying, but that is really exciting and I love it. - soundcolourvibration.com/