Album ‘Pause’ released November 12th via One Little Independent Records
New single and video ‘Seedling’ out now
Brighton based performer and composer Poppy Ackroyd returns this November with her fourth full length album ‘Pause’. Written during the pandemic and shortly after the birth of her first child, the title refers to the feeling of normal life being temporarily put on hold.
The announcement comes alongside single ‘Seedling’ and its stunning new video by celebrated videographer Jola Kudela who says; “I was trying to imagine the process of nature waking up, beginning with a seed, that then slowly transforms itself into a seedling. So, we begin with a frozen environment that encapsulates the seed – it seems trapped and immobilised by the icy world. Then gradually it starts to warm up and defrost, fighting with the power that has been holding it frozen.
I collected small pieces of plants and leaves, submerged them in water and put them in my freezer. Then I observed the process of defrosting, filming it in time-lapse. The technical approach has turned into a form of meditation and confrontation with time. Time-lapse by its nature involves recording long periods of time and changes that happen within the period wouldn’t be normally visible to the naked eye. So in a way it transforms the standard perception of time. You need to sit tight and wait, almost meditating for hours in order to see your final shot.
The second part of the video when the music grows was filmed in time-lapse with the infrared camera. By using infrared I wanted to push the idea of a seed perceiving the world around it even further: IR light isn’t visible to our eyes. The IR filter had cut out most of the visible light (400-700nm) and I was left with a fraction of it (720nm), visible only by extending the exposure time to 2 min per frame. As a result I was able to see a very narrow spectrum of light which is close to the infra-red frequency: a different aspect of electromagnetic radiation that surrounds us.
The post-production process was made on Autodesk Flame and I used a shader to project and manipulate images mapped inside a sphere. It completed my idea of simulating a point of view of a little seed.”
‘Pause’ is a collection of 10 solo piano works. Poppy tells us; “For previous albums almost as much of the creative process was spent editing and manipulating recordings as it was composing at the piano, however after having my son, I struggled to spend time sat in front of a computer. The only thing I wanted to do while he was still small, if I wasn’t with him, was to play the piano. In fact, much of the album was written with him asleep on me in a sling as I used any quiet moment to compose.
It therefore made sense that this album should be a solo piano album. I used extended technique – playing with sounds from inside the instrument – like I do in my multi-tracked recordings, however it was important to me that every track on the album could be entirely performed with just two hands on the piano.”
Following the writing process Poppy spent several months practicing in order to be able to play the pieces completely fluidly. She says “there was a lightness and effortlessness to the recordings that I wanted that was only achievable after many hours of practise.”
New single ‘Seedling’ opens the album, inspired by natural wonder of spring experienced on early morning walks through Brighton’s Queen’s Park. Flourishing, optimistic melodies that open up with the steady building of glistening, cascading keys. ‘Suspended’ retreats into confinement; written to invoke a bird’s-eye view of a city in lockdown, lonely and removed in its presentation, with plucked notes that drift effortlessly and longingly above it. It’s performed with both hands inside the piano – one firmly tapping the strings on the performer side of the piano dampers, and the other using the strings on the far side. ‘Murmurations’ continues the theme, based on the collective movement of starlings. Using repetition and subtle changes, it focusses on big, sweeping migrations, until it fixes on a singular bird’s journey. The title-track that follows slows with a soft, ruminating inflection, one that reflects on anxiety and separation, this time the hands are split with one playing keys and the other plucking the inside of the piano. We’re given a rush of imagined freedom with mid-point ‘Release’, a light and airy, uplifting composition that works to keep us hopeful.
This raw beauty battles with this distinct intimate path and the result is this meaningful journey that Poppy Ackroyd has created within “Seedling“. This ambitious atmosphere offers this immersive setting, it hooks the audience and showcases this plethora of emotion running through the passages, of which feels so personal. The audience will embrace this range of affection throughout the twists and turns of this delicate ensemble. Power shines through the powerful peaks and resonates within the softer notes. Expressive and moving.
‘Muted’ was recorded with weighted cloth dampening the strings in the lower half of the piano. This in turn highlights the instrument’s natural resonance and reverb, and captures the sense of potential in its experimentation. ‘Impulse’ displays a push and pull between energy and it’s gradual taming, while follow-up ‘Stillness’ leaves all exertion behind as it drifts into a sleepy lullaby, a point of clarity in an album otherwise brimming with concept and emotion. ‘Flutter’ brings us back to nature with the thought of butterfly wings, a seemingly small thing that bursts with thoughts of life and colour. Finally, we’re left with ‘Unravel’, another that uses the full effect of plucking and strumming the piano’s strings. It’s a beautiful, thought-provoking closer that slowly unwinds.
As individual stories ‘Pause’ is compelling and ambitious but in its entirety it’s a flawless snap-shot of its time, highlighting the highs and lows of the period as well as a unique and challenging era for its creator. It carries with it a host of stages we’ve all found ourselves working through and has done so with gorgeous, poetic lucidity, all the while expanding on the sounds usually expected of a solo piano record.
Poppy Ackroyd’s debut album ‘Escapement’ was released in December 2012 and a DVD – ‘Escapement Visualised’ – featuring bespoke visuals by Tom Newell for each track on the album, was released in September 2014. ‘Feathers’, her second album, followed in November 2014, and builds on the concept behind her debut, with most of the sounds again coming from the violin and the piano, however this time the tracks also feature other keyboard and string instruments. In 2017 she released her acoustic solo mini album ‘Sketches’ followed by ‘Resolve’ in February 2018 and ‘Resolve Reimagined’ in 2019, which featured remixes from Max Cooper, Hidden Orchestra, Hauschka and others.
Poppy is a member of Joe Acheson’s live project Hidden Orchestra and has worked on numerous projects with other musicians, artists, filmmakers, animators, dancers and actors.