Poppy Nogood ~ Music for Mourning

music for mourningWhat’s in a name?  When this album first came in for review, we may have been subliminally influenced by the name of the artist, and we passed on it; but when Preserved Sound picked it up, we listened again, and boy were we wrong.  Don’t make the same mistake!

The album reflects its title by proceeding through the phases of mourning.  It’s tempting to interpret the five tracks as literal reflections of the phases, but it’s more accurate to read the music as a free-flowing reaction to loss.  Sadness visits early (that violin!) and is a primary presence throughout.  While Nogood also plays piano, guitar and electronics, the multi-tracked strings carry the weight.  The artist acknowledges an affinity for Max Richter, yet while listening to “do you remember?”, the mournful nature of John Williams’ score for Schindler’s List comes to mind as well.  The sound is surprisingly mature for an artist who freely admits, “i make music in my basement when i am home from school.”  It’s also an encouragement to others: with the right amount of time, talent, and motivation, one can record an orchestral set without an orchestra.

“for the end of time” (shout-out to Messiaen!) is a bit poppier (sorry) than that much longer work, but shares timbral qualities with the rhythmic segments of the classic piece, in particular an attention to counter-balance, with percussive notes upfront anchored by longer draws of the bows in back.  The electronic pulse that develops in the last hundred seconds wakes the set from shock and denial and moves it into the next phase: anger.  And “frame shatter” is the album’s key piece, in that it snaps any idea of this being an ambient album.  Mourning is not polite; it’s the reflection of a soul in turmoil.  By mixing moods within this track, Nogood underlines this characteristic of the grieving process, whose creeping glissandos are like unwanted emotions slipping in.  It’s unclear whether anyone else was in the house while these were being recorded, but these are not the sounds one wants to hear coming from one’s basement!

As expected, the closing piece reins in the wild emotions, collecting them in a tidy pile.  The piano makes a good rake.  While it’s the album’s most understated piece, it operates as an aftermath: the words that can’t be said, but need to be said; the messages in the silence.  Our props to Preserved Sound for picking up on this talent.  (Richard Allen)

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