Goodbye, Hotel Arkada by Mary Lattimore

Release date: October 13, 2023
Label: Ghostly International

Mary Lattimore makes exquisitely beautiful harp records that are often possessed by a kind of bittersweet wandering melancholy. Her fifth solo outing Goodbye, Hotel Arkada continues in this vein, her harp giving golden voice to the benign ghosts of memory.

The first tune ‘And Then He Wrapped His Wings Around Me’ moves with a stately grace, sighing softly as it lifts you away from the cares of the world. Its evocative post-rock title combines with the heavenly twinkle of the harp to suggest the wings of angels but its actual inspiration is far richer and more relatable. It recalls a childhood memory of little Mary receiving a hug from Big Bird at Sesame Street Live! Warm and comforting the music carries a fleeting sense of the innocence and oddness of such a moment, shaded by its loss.

Goodbye, Hotel Arkada is the follow up to Silver Ladders, in the past Mary Lattimore’s work has split between her own records and full blown collaborations with other artists. Here, in a new wrinkle on the rug, there are several guests making subtle contributions to the tracks, vocals even. On ‘And Then He Wrapped His Wings Around Me’ previous collaborator Meg Baird provides soft hums and sighs while Walt McClements adds a foundational drone. ‘Arrivederci’ features nuanced electronic parts from Lol Tolhurst, founding member of The Cure and author of the latest in this year’s string of big goth books.

For ‘Blender in a Blender’, a title which suggests an unlikely diversion into industrial noise crank (it’s not), Lattimore is joined by Roy Montgomery who adds nuanced background guitar that finally blooms towards the track’s end. The closing ‘Yesterday’s Parties’ has violin from Samara Lubelski and more wordless vocalising, this time from Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell. It’s a drifting night time reverie. Where her music is habitually woolgathering, an invitation to meander in the hazy spaces of memory and dream, ‘Horses, Glossy on the Hill’ is remarkable for its ability to call up the vision of its title. Bright sunlight shimmering, hooves clacking as we drive past.

In Croatia, on the island of Hvar, Lattimore had been taken by the relaxed atmosphere and worn charms of Hotel Arkada. Wandering its halls she felt a connection to a long and happy history of holiday makers. When a friend told her to say goodbye as it was soon to be refurbished and modernised she became fascinated by the suggestive power of its faded patterns and surfaces. This idea of her, absorbing and channelling the accumulation of memory in a place, before it gets knocked down or painted over, seems apposite. Her music drifting through the still rooms of a big old hotel that has seen much and welcomed many.

Similarly, the cover again features one of Becky Suss’s striking paintings of interiors. Both empty and full, they are charged with the inner life of unseen inhabitants. As in Lattimore’s music there is a pervasive sense of memory, even loss, bold blocks of colour pushing the commonplace into the symbolic. The sadness of life is that the present is so often unknowable to us while what we do know, the past, is already gone. It lives in the melancholy glow of fond memory. From time to time you hear or remember that music is magic, or music is medicine. It can sometimes be hard to believe, but not here.

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