Haley Heynderickx describes her life as one of paradoxes. She grew up in Oregon in a religious household with a strong connection to her Filipino roots, yet overlapping across many cultural identities. She is now based in Portland, OR and is an artist whose “faith is not overt, but [whose] introspection and continued struggle for self-actualization are easily accessible and relatable.”
On her debut LP, Heynderickx mirrors a seemingly contradictory existence with an album of contrasting or incongruent elements. From top to bottom, the album effortlessly blends soft folk melodies, delicate acoustic guitar plucking, vocal styles hinting at jazz, folk, and soul, some more traditionally structured pop songs, and an occasional flourish of piano and horns. It is a beautiful trip all the way from the opening track, “No Face,” dripping in feelings of powerlessness heard through angelic vocal harmonies to one of the final two numbers on the album, “Oom Sha La La,” an upbeat and electric guitar driven anthem with a message of empowerment.
The album is beautifully mixed at Nomah Studios in Portland by Zak Kimball. His work on this album, I feel, is at its peak on the second track, “The Bug Collector.” Heynderickx lively acoustic plucking fades in, setting a foundation for a layered vocal performance with equal parts unison melodies and expansive, rich harmonized responses. As each verse passes, new textures are introduced while never overpowering the repeating guitar figure. Shakers, bells, trombone, and translucent pads all contribute to this song which seems to gradually grow out of nothing before culminating in an almost supernatural ambiance.
References to her religious past can be heard across various points of this album, especially in “Untitled God Song.” Although it eventually crescendos to feature drums and trombone, Heynderickx’s performance feels strikingly lonely. This is a theme heard across much of the album as many of the songs begin with unaccompanied vocal and guitar statements. Looking at “Show You a Body,” the mid point of the album, provides a good example of how Heynderickx’s accompanying band provides an atmosphere for her vocal melodies to sit in what feels like solitude. In “Show You a Body,” vocal statements are interrupted by out of time and esoteric swells from the band. From there, the familiar sound of the nylon strings on Heynderickx’s guitar appear between more of these interruptions, sounding like the wind picking up and rustling leaves in the process.
I Need to Start a Garden is released on the Portland, OR label, Mama Bird Recording Co. This album may be a debut LP, but it has such a sense of cohesion and maturity that it is hard to believe that is is just the begin for Haley Heynderickx. Even with the contrasting elements that make up the album, there is a sense of continuity felt through the emotional weight poured into each song causing the listener to live the moments of heartbreak, confusion, gloom, and beauty right along with Heynderickx.
Haley Heynderickx is currently in the middle of a long line of tour dates. To find a show near you and explore more of her music visit her website, www.haley-heynderickx.com.
What comes to mind when you think about the harp? Maybe it is the magical timbre it adds to the orchestra. Perhaps you think of the sound of traditional Celtic melodies such as Greensleeves. Or maybe it is just the classic tranquil and heavenly sound that it contributes to any arrangements it is featured on. Los Angeles-based harpist, Mary Lattimore is breaking this mold one album and collaboration at a time.
Lattimore experiments with effects and her harp creating vast and varied ambient landscapes with harp as the unexpected main character in this ongoing and thriving endeavor. While the tools of choice on her earlier albums included nothing more than effects and looping pedals along with her harp, her latest album, released in May on Ghostly International, features new sounds that move beyond the harp. Lattimore’s voice, synths, piano, guitar, and percussion are all new additions in her arsenal of sounds.
While the harp remains the main voice on much of the album, the opening two tracks, “It Feels Like Floating” and “Never Saw Him Again,” are immediate displays of Lattimore’s experimentation with new sounds. The almost 12-minute opening track thickens in texture until the harp becomes a background instrument and eventual cannot be heard for about the last three minutes of the song where rich synth harmonies take center stage. “Never Saw Him Again” follows a similar formula. A captivating melody and ostinato are established early in the track, but when layered harmonies featuring Lattimore’s voice enter it is clear the harp is in the role of accompanist.
“Hello From the Edge of The Earth” and “Baltic Birch” shift the album in a darker direction. The gentle repetition of “Hello From the Edge of the Earth” leads into the more dizzying texture of “Baltic Birch,” another moment on this album where the extended instrumentation adds an impressive depth to Lattimore’s music. The over nine-minute track slowly crescendos to feature electric guitar and a detuning effect on the harp which disorients the listener away from the serenity of the ambient landscape.
Each track on this sophomore LP paints an extremely vivid and wordless picture of a moment or place seen by Lattimore since beginning the album at Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin, California, where she was awarded a residency. The final picture painted on the album, “On the Day You Saw the Dead Whale,” blends together the array of voices we have heard throughout the album and puts them working together, contrapuntally. Piano and harp melodies blend together with the space in between their phrases being filled with airy synth pads. It’s a final showcase on Hundreds of Days revealing the new landscape of harp music Lattimore is creating within the indie scene.
Sudan Archives is the type of artist that gets me excited. Really excited.
This 24-year-old violinist is creating some of the most original and inventive music in the country. Armed with a violin and looping pedals, her voices floats above a symphony of mysterious string sounds and beats. There are no rules for Sudan Archives and she is completely self-made as a musician. She first picked up a violin in fourth grade. At the age of 17, Archives and her stepfather did not see eye-to-eye about her future as an artist. He saw Archives and her twin sister as the next great pop performing duo, but in meetings with record executives, Archives saw herself in the producer’s chair.
She was kicked out of her house, but made her way to L.A. to enroll in Pasadena City College to study ethnomusicology. It was here where she began to create MPC beats with fiddle music and R&B vocals overtop which caught the attention of Stones Throw Records headman, Peanut Butter Wolf. Archives has now released two EPs on the label.
The lead single and true masterpiece on the EP is “Nont For Sale.” It displays the flexibility of Archives’ vocal performance abilities. She effortlessly shifts between lively R&B melodies and a spoken rap-like delivery all over a harmonized pizzicato ostinato. Stuttering hi-hats and strong kick contribute to the blurred line between hip-hop and Archives’ genre-bending violin technique. The subject matter of the song oscillates between personal narratives and issues of colonialism. “This is my time, don’t waste it up. This is my land, nont for sale.” she sings in the chorus.
“Beautiful Mistake” follows a similar lyrical theme. While being deeply personal and intimate in celebrating the imperfections of one’s self, “I’m a beautiful mistake,” Sudan Archives simultaneously tackles larger world issues such as addressing issues of power dynamics and authoritarianism with lines like, “they don’t know/they just fuckin’ old people tryin’ to steal all your gold.” Musically, there is a similar feeling of ostinato using the violin, but with much more percussive complexity. More intricate layers and polyrhythms make for an intriguing groove.
Her experimentation goes beyond the sonic landscape of her music. In addition to this modern take on West African music, her fashion and music videos also take on a contemporary aesthetic with clear West African influences. Her background in ethnomusicology helps pave the way for these influences and her research to find their way into the music.
Sudan Archives’ story shows that lessons don’t matter, money doesn’t matter, and if you have the drive, connections can be made no matter your prior status in the industry. It really comes down to the matter of desire. Sudan Archives is writing her own rules as she goes and with two brilliant EPs under her belt, this is just her beginning.