As I sit outside on a rare warm spring afternoon in London, I am delighted by the sound of the harp, an arguably underrated and underused instrument. It is relaxing and soothing and I was captivated by the interesting sounds from this album. The summery feel is understandable; it was composed during the hot months in a barn above the hills of San Francisco.
Mary Lattimore is a harpist from LA and Hundreds of Days is her second full album. She has worked with the likes of Nick Cave and Sharon van Etten, so you can cast aside all your assumptions of twee harp playing. Instead, Mary takes harp playing to new levels, experimenting with different sounds and rhythms, giving it a very contemporary feel. She includes electronic synthesisers and white noise, and sounds are manipulated to give a sometimes eerie and mystical sound.
I have to admit, it’s not the sort of thing I’d usually listen to and it’s certainly not for everyone. If you want music you can hum along to, this won’t do much for you. But, if you want to be taken on an extraordinary musical journey, then give Hundreds of Days a listen.
Her music could be described as ambient, bringing to mind Brian Eno’s Music for Airports and minimalist, as if Philip Glass swapped a piano for a harp.
The first track on the record, ‘It Feels Like Floating’, is 11 minutes long, however new elements are added before the listener has a chance to switch off. Her compositions are layered, with different parts intertwining around each other and syncopated rhythms giving it an interesting texture.
One track that stood out was ‘Baltic Birch’, based on a recent trip to Latvia, struck by the abandoned resort towns along the Baltic coast. The discordant strings reflected this well.
All in all, Hundreds of Days is the kind of album you’d expect to get synced for BBC dramas, or listened to during very long train journeys. It’s worth listening to by those who appreciate the harp or even those who haven’t given it much of a chance, as this record might just get you hooked.
Ella Patenall is a musician from North London who plays guitar and sings backing vocals in an acoustic duo. She loves writing about all things musical and keeps up a blog. In her spare time she also enjoys going to gigs, collecting vinyl and boxing. In her day job, she works as a marketing executive.