Mary Lattimore – Goodbye, Hotel Arkada (Ghostly, 2023)

As we move through the female ambient musician golden age, which I think it’s fair to say is slowly elapsing around us as more women find themselves in increasing prominence, a particular kind of artist seems to arrive at my doorstep more regularly than others. Perhaps that’s an aesthetic or taste driven thing on my part, who knows, but the likes of Sarah Davachi, Kali Malone, Julianna Barwick, Christina Vantzou etc all seem to arise.

Even factoring in Davachi and Malone’s respective drone constructions it strikes me that these (and many others!) all lean heavily on an acoustic background, and often deeply rooted in, if not some level of formalism, classical music training. Talented women all on the distinctly un-electronic side of life, crafting very beautiful and often incredibly precise sound.

Precision, to be clear, isn’t the order of the day across the whole of Goodbye, Hotel Arkada; certainly there are moments on here where a more ethereal and nebulous sound is sought.  Yet with an instrument as meticulous as Lattimore’s harp it’s almost to be expected: “Horses, Glossy On The Hill” is brimmed with staccato harp chords rolling out into more strident, but still very exacting, arpeggiations, and sophomore “Arrivederci” uses Lol Tolhurst’s (The Cure) synth to buoy the delicately strained strings taught with tension flicking and pinging out of the mist.

But right from the off “And Then He Wrapped His Wings Around Me” emerges with dawn chorus, shimmering and glowing as vocal hums and coos radiate off the refractive edges of the harp. It flutters and flashes but never succumbs to any kind of rigorous formality. Likewise, nestled right in the centre we have “Music For Applying Shimmering Eye Shadow” that drifts almost into Slowcore Americana at points in its cosy reverbed electroacoustic guitar and wafting drone beds that allow the chords to twinkle delicately in focus.

The evaporating ending of “Yesterday’s Parties” sees yet more vocals sublimate out, reminiscent perhaps of marine eyes’ (Cynthia Bernard) work in all its earnest space and light, and gauzy sustains for atmosphere. Though of course set against the unusual dance partner of the harp in slow motion, dreaming of twirling and whirling in the big lights as though seen through a prism, slowing down and down as time and memory elapses into a long goodbye.

While I in no way intend to mean that only women could or do make this sort of music (there’s three male collaborators on here after all), it’s interesting to me to wonder if amongst these careful constructions that exist on the borderlands of modern classic, ambient, new age, whether there is something decidedly feminine within works like this. An avenue for poise and elegance to be utilised, expressions of a female rendering of nostalgia. I’m not sure, but Mary’s sound has an unplaceable quality to me and easily sets itself aside in the ambient canon.