Poppy Ackroyd is a badass behind the keys, the board, and the sheet. She plays, produces, and arranges this album. An industry key in the neo-classical world who has played in the Hidden Orchestra and alongside Nils Frahm and Hauschka. A classically trained pianist, violinist, producer, and composer for the first time she reaches out to others to come join. Mike Lesirge (Bonobo) plays clarinets and a flute. Manu Delago (Bjork, Anoushka Shankar, Andreya Triana) plays the hang. And Jo Quail (cellist soloist extraordinaire) plays the cello.
You’ll hear Poppy playing the violin, harmonium, spinet (mini harpsichord), pianino (ya it’s a real thing. It’s a small upright piano), upright and grand piano. It’s not just the diverse instrumentation at work, it’s how they are played, and mostly, produced. She gets right into the guts of these fucking things to flick, strike, bash, bang, and pluck these strings. It’s done intimately and quietly with mics close enough to the action to pick up these tiny sounds. In the end, it creates a very tender and delicate sound, like the instruments themselves are playing deep, hidden, and personal thoughts. It’s a neo-classical pornography.
Sometimes this genre has a way of hitting someone in the face with the abstract. The listener either has to lie and say, “brilliant performance” or to courageously stand up and say, “I don’t get it.” This isn’t the case with Poppy. Whether someone is well versed in the genre or they’ve never heard of it, this is an album that will grab their attention. It’s approachable as well as sophisticated. Like the greatest of most arts, it doesn’t have to pretend to be great, it simply is. There’s no chance of an emperor walking nude and proud to show off his new clothes. There’s no air of betterment. It relates equally to all: peasant, emperor, and fucktoy.
This album is best played in an intimate setting, as most neoclassical should. It’s one of these albums that can play in the background as you read, write, draw, paint, or think over the world. But, just because it’s intimate and approachable doesn’t mean it’s not experimental. This album produces sounds that excite and confuse. But, somehow, it’s easy to digest whatever is played. It’s like going over a really good buffet from a culture you don’t understand. All the food tastes amazing, even though you’re not even sure what any of it is. So, engorge yourself. Fill yourself to the brim. And like a really good soup, you’ll be full as fuck and still be asking for seconds.