Some Assembly Required
After spending the last few years bouncing around Scotland in bands both rocking and reeling, British multi-instrumentalist and composer Poppy Ackroyd makes her solo bow on Escapement. It’s a small, fragile wisp of an album that belies a strong set of performance and arranging skills.
Ackroyd’s approach to her violin and piano sounds is as calculated and measured as it is organic. On first listen it might suggest soft-focus soundtrack work or New Age music, yet songs like “Glass Sea” have a sense of urgency and momentum not normally found in either. Better yet, no song sounds so contrived that it overstay its welcome.
She also relies heavily on technology, assembling every sound on Escapement not just from straight playing but from manipulation of her instruments. Tapping her violin for a rhythm track, rubbing piano strings for atmosphere—these and other tricks are pieced together to very natural effect in songs like “Grounds” and “Mechanism.”
It’s this use of micro-plunderphonics and chamber-pop theatrics that launches Ackroyd beyond the conservatism of a Joshua Redman or George Winston. Escapement could be one of those musical unicorns: a contemporary instrumental album that earns respect from pop listeners as well as crusty cognoscenti.