With Escapement, London-based composer and performer Poppy Ackroyd provides a moving, immersive experience using little more than the bare necessities.
Noted for exploring the piano beyond the keys, she tackles the instrument with a sense of adventure and finds that there are more sounds to discover beyond the chords and scales. Throw the violin into the mix and Escapement takes shape as a sprawling, stimulating record, indeed.
Ackroyd’s debut album is the result of the last few years of discovering sounds from violin and piano and subsequently recording and multi-tracking them. With the exception of a few field recordings, like birds from the Outer Hebrides for instance, Escapement is entirely comprised of sounds, rhythms and melodies from piano and violin.
Ackroyd is the only musician on the record. She also recorded and produced the music herself.
It is clear from the outset that this is a very personal, very intricate project from the Edinburgh-based musician. She explores the appointment of rhythm, sometimes tapping up to five beats from various parts of the instruments and layering them on top of each other in percussive harmony. The music was recorded on a recently restored grand piano and through one microphone in Ackroyd’s home studio.
The angular approach to sound creation is truly unusual, with Ackroyd’s sense of adventure proving captivating and infinite through the vast caves of each piece. There are seven tracks on Escapement and they all flow into each other, knitting a tale of escape and relief.
“Aliquot,” the first piece, opens delicately with the brushing of strings on the piano and plucks of violin string. Ackroyd builds to a beautiful tapestry, unfolding a magical world like the doorway to a garden while building her experimental command. The path to discovery is one she walks with the listener, recounting the universe of Escapement one note at a time.
“Seven” uses rhythm from hitting the piano and folding out chord progressions. The layering work in this piece is something else, but it’s Ackroyd’s sense for the whole song that really makes this number shine. The violin pulls in at just the right moment to accent the music’s emotional bulk, seizing the opportunity to once more build sounds to poignant climax.
Whether she samples the Scottish deluge on the aptly-titled “Rain” or calls on impossible noises on the captivating “Grounds,” Poppy Ackroyd has delivered something remarkable with her debut. Escapement is an extraordinary record indeed, an album that will find plenty of space and time in my player in the coming months.