Music never ceases to amaze me and I hope it never does. There are pivotal moments that hold firm in your head; game changers. The first time you hear Elizabeth Fraser sing a note, a Johnny Marr guitar riff, a Peter Hook bass line, a wry Alex Turner lyric or a Kraftwerk synth. The goose bumps you feel when Natasha Khan sings ‘Laura’, a Puccini aria, Soderberg sibling harmonies or a Nick Cave love song. The raw electrified intensity of The Jesus And Mary Chain, Evelyn Glennie’s percussion, Warren Ellis playing violin or Colin Stetson’s sax; the list is endless and individual to everyone. Poppy Ackroyd joined my list of poignant musical moments as soon as I’d heard 2017’s ‘Feathers’, a track re-worked for her mini-album ‘Sketches’. Ackroyd’s piano sings, tells a story, leads you to explore your imagination and buoys your spirits with its incredibly illuminating movements.
Poppy Ackroyd’s latest album ‘Resolve’ takes a further step closer to raising the profile of an incredibly talented and individual artist. Ackroyd looks set to transcend and traverse the minefield strewn gap that exists between the classical and pop worlds. Her neo-classical piano compositions combine the elegance and eloquence you’d expect from a classically trained pianist and violinist but also incorporates her skill in arrangement and production. What Poppy Ackroyd does superbly well is bring out the very best in each of her tracks by giving them a contemporary edge and an immediacy more associated with chart troubling fayre. Her flair at delivering up soundscapes that completely captivate and hold you firm are incredible. Poppy’s songs may not have any words but they are as lyrical as Dylan or Cohen with their own instrumental narrative.
Whilst this is skilled musicianship of the highest calibre, it is not pure showmanship, flamboyance or by any means elitist. This is not Yuja Wang and a fully blown concert orchestra, this is subtle and nuanced for a cinematic experience rather than a formal classical environment. This is the soundtrack to the film you’d love to see if only it existed, the score to your dreams, the sound of your imagination taking flight. Ackroyd’s music seems to live and breathe with each ebb and flow, each build and break, each intricate detail finely placed to shape and create something incredibly powerful and stirring.
Poppy Ackroyd’s album takes you on a journey throughout the ten tracks. You get ever building intensity on the title track itself, the lighter recurring revolutions of opener ‘Paper’, sublime strings and off set rhymes on ‘Luna’ and a fragility and delicacy delivered through ‘The Dream’. The latest single to be taken from the album, to accompany its full release, is the compelling and dramatic ‘Trains’. The momentum of the track (no pun intended!) aims to reflect the speed and scenery of the journey. The percussive touches add a brilliant foil to the undulating rhythms of the piano. As the song gathers pace you can feel a tension and an excitement, a brooding and a theatrical atmosphere being brought to bear before your ears.
‘Resolve’ also sees a change in the way Ackroyd has chosen to go about putting her album together. Although she has previously worked with other people, and on other projects including soundtrack work, here she has brought other musicians in to enhance her sound as she self-produced her latest album. The addition of other artists, and her manipulation of their sounds, has combined to conjure up something quite extraordinary. The clarinet of Mike Lesirge on last year’s single ‘The Calm Before’ certainly helps to create an album highlight. The mix of instrumentation works wonderfully well as a fusion of sound that is so mesmerising. You’re almost tricked into a hypnosis by the sheer beauty of its simplicity until you uncover the multi-layered complexity of its fabric.
Poppy Ackroyd has produced something of an idiosyncratic masterpiece with ‘Resolve’. It’s a crossover album with no agenda other than its own. Ten pieces of music so well crafted and put together that they’ll surely be appreciated by an undefined audience that just loves great music in which ever form they can find it.