Mary Lattimore is a provocateur of the emotive. She paints memories onto elaborate and expansive soundscapes while evoking a natural and visceral reaction. She is a musician of true skill and power. Armed with her 47-string Lyon & Healy harp Lattimore conjures the feelings of blurry memories that carry with them powerful emotions. She began to study a classical style of playing at age 11 and while these elements occasionally crop up in some songs, her works are mostly luscious movements through sonic landscapes of an inexplicable beauty and pervasive sadness. Lattimore has remarked that for her the “melody line is a sentence in itself” and this can be well heard on all of her preceding work. From the caution and wanderlust of At the Dam and the prismatic heights of Slant of Light, her music is balanced between the tangible presences of sadness and lucidity.
Her current release, Hundreds of Days, marks step forward for her sound and is perhaps her best work to date. It is at once expansive and sprawling while retaining Lattimore’s signature feeling of impassioned intimacy. Immediately this is visible with the vaulting, angelic melody of the album’s opener “It Feels Like Floating”. Utilizing technology to enhance rather than mask her unique sound and haunting sound, Lattimore constructs angelic soundscapes from her Moog synthesizers and a Line 6 Looper to build the most vaulting and meditative ambient music.
Always one to expand upon her sound, Lattimore is at her most experimental here, utilizing her catalogue of pedals, synths, a piano, and voice to expand the sonic pallet of her music. For example, “Baltic Birch” features swelling electric guitar lines and twisting, contorted loops that distort and warp the melodies for a truly enrapturing effect. “Never Saw Him Again” starts as a reposeful walk and ends with a spiraling prismatic ascension to the heavens with Lattimore’s harp spiraling with arpeggios. Elsewhere the use of reverb-heavy guitar on “Their Faces Streaked with Light and Filled with Pity”Their Faces Streaked with Light and Filled with Pity“ and the reposeful piano of “On the Day You Saw the Dead Whale” make for an enrapturing and interesting listen.
Perhaps Hundreds of Days‘ tranquility and undeniable connection to natural beauty can be attributed to Lattimore’s time spent writing this album at the Headlands Center for the Arts near Sausalito. Surrounded by other artists and the serenity of the Californian landscape, Lattimore aptly incorporated the natural energy of nature into her music. The drifting, lilting trajectory of these songs almost effortlessly conjure visages of redwoods encircled with mist and the sun setting over a quiet hilly region.
Lattimore has proven time and time again to be the contemporary master of the harp and merely reinforces this fact on Hundreds of Days. Luckily she almost certainly will continue to expand and experiment on an instrument known for being so traditional. Perhaps what is most exciting is her use of technology to re-contextualize a classical instrument in an exciting way. This fact combined with her interest in creating and dismembering melody and freely improvising over succulent sonic textures make her future one of exciting and seemingly infinite possibility.