Poppy Ackroyd ~ Resolve

From the opening seconds of “Paper”, one can hear something intriguing going on: clacks and taps, and soon other instruments as well.  On Resolve, Poppy Ackroyd continues to expand her compositional horizons, incorporating a host of collaborators while continuing to master multiple instruments herself.  Not immediately apparent is the fact that these compositions are arrangements of studio snippets: an invisible layer that lends the set a light electronic sheen.  Ackroyd’s background with Hidden Orchestra shines through, as does her new connection – via guests – with Bonobo and Cinematic Orchestra.  It’s unusual to feel a tug toward dance on a piano-based album, but the subliminal attraction is there.

“Light” is a perfect example.  The steady tempo and surround sound drums seem to emanate from a club, the string passages from a concert hall.  Heads nod and reflect at the same time.  And what would the artist have us think about?  Some track titles are general (“Time”, “The Dream”), but two stand out: “The Calm Before” and “Resolve”.  The implication is that a storm has arrived in the space between the grooves, but has since passed.  In its wake is a new determination.  It’s tempting to find public corollaries to this story, but in this case a general reading allows the album to be “owned” by a greater number of people.  We’ve all survived something.  The softest spot of the title track seems to honor that past, while the final ninety seconds rises from the ashes and drapes a shawl of confidence around its neck.

The confidence of the album reflects the title.  Ackroyd’s tones are bright, her compositional hand steady.  The strongest track, “Luna”, introduces larger orchestral themes in the form of a cinematic chorus.  A sense of urgency is borne on staccato strings.  As the volume of the percussion increases, one thinks, now is the time for resolution.  A soft violin breakdown underlines the sense of internal struggle, but only briefly; when the chorus returns, misgivings are put aside.  A decision has been made.  The artist has trusted her instincts, and they’ve paid off.  (Richard Allen)

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