Mary Lattimore and Mac McCaughan Unveil Their Minimal Explorations

On New Rain Duets, Mary Lattimore and Mac McCaughan construct a beautifully minimalistic record, filled with emotion and intricacy.

New Rain Duets
Mary Lattimore and Mac McCaughan

Three Lobed Recordings

22 March 2019

Mary Lattimore, the classically trained harpist has risen as an incredible experimental artist through her solo releases, starting off with her debut record The Withdrawing Room. Even more impressive was Lattimore's 2018 Hundred of Days, which found her expanding her scope further, investigating the harp and other instrumentation in a very unusual way and constructing a fantastic ambient work. However, Lattimore has not been isolated to her experimental machinations. She has also crossed over to the indie scene and collaborated with many famed indie musicians, including the likes of Thurston Moore, Kurt Ville, and Steve Gunn.

In this collaboration, Lattimore stands alongside another iconic indie musician Mat McCaughan. McCaughan has wandered joyfully to a few different musical realms, be it the energetic punk rock domain with Superchunk or the sentimental lo-fi with Partastatic. No matter the case, what has always remained constant for McCaughan was his DIY ethic, and also his intrinsic curiosity towards experimentation. It is exactly this willingness to try strange things and experiment that brings this duo together, and result in New Rain Duets.

This is a work of world-building and atmosphere craftsmanship. Starting from McCaughan's synthesizer, the record is introduced through glacial movements that paint with broad brushstrokes the soundscapes. This is where the foundation of this album lies, and that is the core of its beauty. On top of this minimal progression, Lattimore and McCaughan further expand, adding flourishes and enriching this sparse scenery. And they do so in more ways than one.

Despite its ambient approach and almost drone quality, there are times when this work is imbued by a defined sense of structure. That is in particular prevalent with "II" as Lattimore leads the way, producing variations on the main theme of the track. It is a stunning instance of emotional quality, which gets dragged out for minutes, and reaches a peak when McCaughan's synths arise. It is this moment that completely unveils the sheer beauty of this work, its delicate touch and underplayed narrative.

Yet, Lattimore and McCaughan possess more than one gear and they can move out of their standardized progression and move towards an improvisational paradigm. That is where the duo truly shines, as Lattimore takes a more energetic and verbose approach, creating a stream of consciousness progression. Her playing transforms the surrounding soundscapes. In "I" for example, she is transitioning gracefully from dissonant notions to a series of beautiful phrases. McCaughan also follows that lead, joining in this haze of emotions and concepts, halfway into the opening track, producing a piercing cacophony that majestically combines with Lattimore's harp.

In the end, New Rain Duets radiates with a magical feeling. This exercise in world-building has been completely successful for the two artists, and they transfer the listener to a desolate setting, a place where you find yourself alone in nature. The essence of this atmosphere has its blueprint in a Faulkner-ian scenery, with a subtly dark element. It is something that is always present, no matter if the music arrives with an ambient and minimal sense or a verbose and structured form. It is with an uncanny ability that the duo retain their focus through the twists and turns of this work and enhance its storytelling element as the record progress. It speaks volumes to the artistic aptitude of Lattimore and McCaughan and to how intricate a work they have produced with New Rain Duets.





A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.