On November 3rd, breath-taking post-classical artist Poppy Ackroyd releases her first full-length album with One Little Indian Records, Resolve. A classically trained pianist, violinist, producer, and composer, Ackroyd turned heads in the neo-classical world with her previous works Escapement and Feathers, as well as her involvement in Hidden Orchestra (Tru Thoughts).
Having played alongside giants of the genre, Hauschka and Nils Frahm the unique musician has returned, newly signed to Bjork's label One Little Indian Records, fresh off the back of a mini-album Sketches, and set to release her brand new self-produced full-length record – her most ambitious and progressive piece of work to date.
The ground-breaking album explores life's constant challenges, and many of the songs are extremely personal to Poppy. In her own words: “Resolve is about the determination to embrace the good things in life whilst dealing with unexpected and challenging difficulties. Finding the light in the dark, facing sadness and loss head on, and developing a growing inner strength.
”'Trains', the lead single from the album, simulates the sounds, movement, speed and changing scenery of a train journey. The track's accompanying time-lapse video (which is yet to be revealed to the public) has won 12 awards, including the Gold Movie Awards and South London Shorts.In contrast to Ackroyd's previous albums, for which the artist manipulated field recordings, Ackroyd has this time employed guest players on the record, in conjunction with her trademark and unique use of unconventional studio methods. Ackroyd creates percussive textures from traditional classical instruments, and the result is almost the emulation of an entire orchestra, using very few instruments combined with the artist’s incredible production skills.
On opening track ‘Paper’, the musician creatively recorded and manipulated experimental beats, born from using paper over piano strings. The principal melody on 'Stems' was created using a combination of pianino (a very small toy piano) and wine glasses. The piece sound-tracked a BAFTA winning short animation by Ainslie Henderson.
Ackroyd plays a combination of both upright and grand piano, and even plays the inside of the instrument using fingers, drumsticks and plectrums – and then arranges and multi-tracks the resulting sounds. The artist employed the same technique to record herself playing violin, pianino, hamonium and spinet, as well as record other musicians who played cello, flute, clarinet, bassclarinet and hang. Describing this process, Poppy said: “With the other musicians, I asked them to explore the instrument and to create as many weird and wonderful sounds as they could. I then spent hours sifting through the recordings and choosing sounds and short percussive ideas that I could rearrange and build the track from. The opening of ‘The Calm Before’ is built out of the clicking of clarinet keys and ‘Quail’ starts with eerie sounding harmonics.”
Although a keen collaborator outside of her solo work – having created soundtracks for film, dance, physical theatre and radio –this is the first record for which Poppy has written for and employed other players, including Manu Delago (Bjork, Cinematic Orchestra, Anoushka Shankar) playing hang, Mike Lesirge (Bonobo, Andreya Triana) playing clarinets and flute, and
Jo Quail on cello.
Through studying contemporary classical piano works and listening to electronic music, Ackroyd quickly developed her signature compositional style on previous albums, using contemporary pianistic ideas whilst also inhabiting the world of sound beyond the keyboard, using extended techniques to 'play' other parts of the instruments as well. The intelligent artist works by recording improvisedcontemporary classical piano motifs and then rearranging and manipulating these sounds digitally. The result is a fantastic fusion of acoustic and electronic in a post-classical setting.