At some point around 2010 through about 2013, my conception of what encompassed “post-rock” sort of morphed into “bada** crap I discovered on cokemachineglow.com.” Most noteworthy among this fare was probably Dustin Wong and his 2012 opus Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads — a gargantuan hourlong slab of the most sedate instrumental looping perfect for that especially cold and rainy spring we had the coming year.
Now, if it happens that these past few years have seen a stark ebb in this kind of patient, long-winded rock, it might not be so much God’s cruelty of the universe at hand as it is just that… who else could DO this stuff? I mean sure, physically, a lot of musicians out there can lay down that looping — but all the way, the sense of poignancy, the feel the music had for moving along purposefully from phase to phase, the awesome song titles… to repeat or copy it too soon would have been to attempt to undermine its chestiness in playing as something truly rare.
From the band name “Poppy Ackroyd,” I hardly expected anything like this — in fact I was prepared for an eardrum assault every bit in the juvenile and charmingly obnoxious vein of Be Your Own Pet. First steps into this Poppy Ackroyd sound bath with call to mind the early, textural days of Four Tet and maybe a little Tortoise given a Chopin piano retreat up in the mountains. But given the moniker’s allusion to the Blues Brothers, one striking thing you’ll find out is that this is a female, one “composer from Brighton, currently based in London ” who is “Classically trained on piano” and “makes music by manipulating and multi-tracking sounds from these two instruments.” Props then go to Bjork for lassoing the producer up at some point and corralling her for her own One Little Indian label. Indeed, when you look at Spotify, it lists 2017 for all her albums before Resolve, but from reading her site you find 2012 as her actual genesis.
You could say that this stuff is a long time coming, or you could say that we actually discovered it not until we really needed it most. I myself veer toward this latter conclusion. Like I mentioned before, with its sublime textural beauty and palpable mood, opener “Paper” exudes the sort of professionalism in music that’s become so rare in our age of punk and attitude. But then, remember, Poppy Ackroyd is British.
“Light” one-ups its predecessor with a greater length, some darker piano runs and also importantly the entrance of a majestic, incessant bongo line. Things come to a surreal head, though, on track three “The Calm Before,” which opens with a skewed percussion effect I PERSONALLY have never heard before in music (it sounds like a muted bongo channeled next to some sort of airy African instrument, also somehow muted or physically treated) and then dissuades itself into the extant piano bliss, this time yielding some actual rolls on that sucker, or really fast arpeggios, whatever you want to call them. Either way, this music continues to manifest a professional, cathedral sophistication, while losing nothing in the way of warmth, purpose and immediacy.
By the time the titled track comes in all of the piano-dominated instrumentations might finally begin to come off as a tad bit monotonous, but it’s the type of monotony that can be very digestible given just a little patience, and maybe a drink and a comfortable seat on a cold night. “Quail” comes in more ambient and complex, with harp plucks gently adding to the mixture. “The Dream,” then, is quite the centerpiece, cementing in the listener’s mind the exorbitant ability Ackroyd has of, with very minimal means, creating tension, darkness and uncertainty. The real astonishing thing here, though, along with the celestial melodic knack that Ackroyd gets across, is the stark contrast BETWEEN the layered pianos — there will be one in the back that almost sounds like a harpsichord, lower and mellower, laying down a sort of quarter note harmony line, with the wistful, soprano melody unstable and capable of combusting into 16th-note mania whenever it so chooses, every episode of which almost laying waste to your heart as a listener. Dolby Disaster’s utmost props go out to British composer Poppy Ackroyd.