21 Oct 2023

Goodbye Arkada Hotel by Mary Lattimore

From The Sampler, 2:30 pm on 21 October 2023

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Mary Lattimore

Photo: Rachael Pony Cassells

American artist Mary Lattimore is something of a rarity: she’s an indie musician, releasing music on labels like Thrill Jockey and Ghostly International, on formats like cassette. But Lattimore is a classically trained harpist, and doesn’t shy away from it: rather than change her style to fit a genre known for jangling guitars, she forced it to come to her.

Lattimore has been playing harp since she was eleven, but on tracks like that, is much more likely to pluck big, bold notes than anything too intricate. The song is named after a childhood incident with a guy in a Big Bird costume. 

Structurally it’s four or five bass notes, accordion from Walt McClements, some synth flutters, and vocals from Meg Baird. There’s an indie feel to the way things are delayed; smudging the edges as notes hang over the chord changes.

I assume her childhood memory is a happy one, because the track is downright euphoric. ‘Blender in a Blender’ meanwhile has a similarly irreverent name but a much darker feel, as she weaves in and amongst guitar by underground NZ legend Roy Montgomery.

According to Lattimore’s Bandcamp, this material is rooted in improvisation, and on tracks like that you can hear it, as if she and Montgomery were dancing, each giving way to the other when needed. It’s also there in the way the music aims for feeling over technicality.

On ‘Music For Applying Shimmering Eye Shadow’, she switches to guitar, again favoring languorously drawn out notes, bending them in and out of tune.

There’s a semi-regular trend with instrumental music to name it very specifically, and that’s the case here. Each one seems tied to a certain memory, and that’s borne out by Mary Lattimore’s accompanying statement, in which she compares the songs to “flowers fading in vases, candles melting, getting older, not realizing how experiences are fleeting until they never happen again”.

Arkada Hotel is a place in Croatia which is currently being refurbished. The way she bids it goodbye in the title fits the theme of time passing, and the music is similarly bittersweet.