Hoarse Songs is composer Andrew Poppy’s first release since 2012’s Shiny Floor Shiny Ceiling and finds him presiding over an eclectic sequence of ten pieces, each one as vastly different in its presentation as the next.
On the captivating opening piece, ‘Song Tide (Interruptible ted)’, you find Poppy blending together the strictures of modern classical musical with a nod to Erik Satie and a perhaps unexpected sojourn to the most introspective moments of ‘Rhapsody In Blue’. Just as you think you’ve worked out the direction of the album, the next piece is almost entirely electronic, delivered in a jerky, non-linear fashion that sounds like the confluence of a series of differently-timed layers of loops – brass sounds, off-kilter percussion, electro pulses, bubbling electronics, poetic vocals – occasionally intersecting like an AI-derived score.
And so it progresses, each successive piece throwing you ever so slightly off-balance. ‘Wave Machine (Endless Parting)’ deploys exciting synth patterns with white noise percussion and hypnotic harp flourishes beneath Poppy’s canticle-esque vocal; ‘Downside Up’ plays with wonky fusion jazz; ‘What Alice Said’ and ‘What Is This Place’ are evocative, beatific moments of operatic theatricality; ‘Riderless’ takes cyclical horns from Mike Soper, Laura Jurd and Nathaniel Cross and attaches them to metallic music-box electronics; the delicate ‘Cyber Spark’ is enveloped in a sparse, fragile, icy brilliance.
The album’s surrealist twelve-minute centrepiece, ‘X Y Song’, is like a modernistic tone poem with relationship fluidity as its ever-mutable central reference point, while ‘Hoarse’, the album’s final statement, is a genteel, gently uplifting piano composition that would bring this collection to a serene full stop were it not for the interjection of its composer’s strangely unsettling intonation of the title.
Perceived wisdom says that composers and musicians must shy away from these dexterous displays of magpie-like eclecticism, that they just stay shackled to something forever and never liberate themselves from it, however uncomfortable and restrictive that might prove to be. Andrew Poppy has ever been the contrarian composer, and Hoarse Songs is yet another timely and deftly-delivered two fingers to the new classical tradition.
Hoarse Songs by Andrew Poppy is now available for pre-order from andrewpoppy.co.uk
With thanks to Philip.
Words: Mat Smith
(c) 2019 Further.