In the space of a decade, Mary Lattimore has not only become the sought-after harpist for rock and experimental musicians but a formidable solo composer in her own right. Lattimore’s classical training, combined with an understanding and appreciation for a variety of sonic textures and electronic sounds, have informed her solo work to significant effect. Goodbye, Hotel Arkada is a worthwhile progression in this growing catalogue.
Goodbye, Hotel Arkada continues much of Lattimore’s experiments from previous albums, albeit this time benefiting from multiple featured artists. Collaborators include Meg Baird, in part known for her frequent work with Lattimore, as well as alternative and experimental musicians Walt McClements, Roy Montgomery, and Samara Lubelski. Notable guests include ex-drummer and keyboard player for the Cure, Lol Tolhurst, and Slowdive‘s Rachel Goswell, who lend their respective talents and stature to Lattimore’s pieces in subtle and distinct ways.
Each track explores a singular phrase or idea, some meditative repetitions, others swelling and expansively-layered soundscapes. Generically, the sounds here demonstrate Lattimore’s influences as well as from her collaborative work, drawing in elements of ambient, electronic, and shoegaze. The results are mysterious, eerie, calming, and spacey, encouraging a wide-eyed consideration of the universe or more inward reflections. Some tracks have a greater impact than others, and it’s not a perfect album by any means, but when it works, it works well.
The opening track, “And Then He Wrapped His Wings Around Me”, is a beautifully-considered flowering of strings and synths. The layers of instrumentation and the soothing vocal accompaniment make for a mystic start, and could well soundtrack a night of stargazing, or a documentary on the wonders of nature. The compositional work is unshowy and understated, yet potent, and is an uplifting and thoughtful beginning.
Other highlights include the excellently (and appropriately) titled “Music for Applying Shimmering Eyeshadow” as well as the similarly evocative “Horses, Glossy on the Hill”. The former, with its echoing reverb and tantalising mixture of stringed instruments feels like it’s broadcast from the watery deep. The latter is a little harder to pin down in terms of its effect, but it’s an intriguing one, with cascading arpeggios on bent strings that fold into rising melodies and low rumbles.
Goodbye, Hotel Arkada’s strength is also its weakness. While there is certainly a distinctive sound and feeling being expressed, the lack of one particular theme that might tie the record together means the listening experience, while pleasant, is not necessarily a staying one. The music then, can feel incidental, and perhaps better suited as an accompaniment to other media, where the sounds can really emphasise and accentuate emotion and visuals.
Goodbye, Hotel Arkada is a fine album and deserves a listen from any fans of experimental, ambient, and electronic music. At times relaxing and others contemplative of life’s great mysteries, it’s a work of beauty and consideration.