Brighton based Poppy Ackroyd, a classically trained pianist, violinist, producer, performer and composer, turned heads in the neo-classical world with her previous works ‘Escapement and Feathers’. A longterm collaborator with Hidden Orchestra (Tru Thoughts Records), she also works with other musicians and artists, creating soundtracks for film, dance, physical theatre and radio. Her debut album ‘Escapement’ (Denovali Records, 2012) impressed with its delicate, intricate and beautifully atmospheric music, created using only piano and violin (with the exception of a few field recordings).
Poppy fell in love with contemporary piano music and with the piano beyond the keys, discovering the world of sound that could be made from other parts of the instrument. Realising the violin had the same potential, she has spent the last few years composing delicate, intricate and beautifully atmospheric music by manipulating and multi-tracking sounds from these two instruments.
Her songs stay true to this idea. Every sound, with the exception of a few field recordings, is created using only either the piano or the violin. The songs are a combination of piano melodies and chords – played both conventionally or created inside the piano using fingers, e-bows and plectrums – violin textures, melodies and pizzicato riffs and finally delicate beats composed of hits, plucks, taps and scrapes made using hands, drumsticks, beaters and small cymbals on either the frame, strings or dampers of the piano. There are often five or more different percussive lines working alongside each other.
In order to compose in this way, Poppy had to learn how to record and produce the music herself, as working with someone else would have been far too time consuming. Having discovered and restored a beautiful but neglected grand piano, she bought a laptop, digital recorder and speakers. Everything from the piano is recorded in her home studio with just this one microphone. It is a simply, stunningly, beautiful album!
Talking about the recording of Sketches, she said: “The songs were recorded just outside of Brighton at Retreat Studios, close to the sea on the edge of the village, surrounded by hills, fields and wildlife. As if by magic, it began to rain just before I began to record the track ‘Rain’, and ended shortly after I finished. You can hear the rain build and then die away with the music on the finished piece.
“I have loved creating this solo piano album. There are normally all these layers that I use to create a world of sound, that I love to build and sculpt, but there is something really special about communicating simply through the instrument alone. With other layers there is always something to hide behind, with only the piano you can just focus on your technique and expression, everything feels very audible and exposed and that is very exciting, especially in a live context.”
Lauded by giants of the genre, Hauschka and Nils Frahm, the unique musician has returned, freshly signed to Bjork’s label One Little Indian Records, with a mini-album to be released on 4th August along side a re-issue on catalogue.