‘Silver Ladders’ sees Los Angeles harpist Mary Lattimore return with her follow-up to Hundreds of Days. Either fate or chance led Lattimore to meeting Slowdive’s Neil Halstead at one of her festival appearances, and it was a meeting which led to him producing Silver Ladders. Lattimore travelled to Newquay, Cornwall, where Halstead’s studio was situated on an old airfield. Over a span of nine days, Silver Ladders was recorded on site, and the slinking refractions of the sunlight on water, creating silver ladders and fluid auroras of light, etch themselves upon the music at all times; they form the record’s fabric.
Lattimore’s melodies are almost like lullabies, and opener ‘Pine Trees’ is a snapshot of her time in Newquay, capturing the glow of the sunshine and the rippling sea. The overall atmosphere is one of warmth and comfort, like wrapping up in a sweater while admiring nature’s artistic display of reflecting light. There is joy within this record, which comes across as being not so much a wild jubilation but rather a subtle celebration, and the vibe remains relaxed throughout. The change of atmosphere reverberates throughout the music, the recording location impacting on and causing the music to unwind, and it has the feel of a vacation (or time spent in a different environment, at least), even if it was anything but. The change of scenery seems to have lifted the music, drifting upwards into higher currents and catching a lighter breeze. Like the water, the harp is capable of cleansing the body and the soul. Silver Ladders feels thoroughly refreshed and rejuvenated. The influence of the surrounding sea has been felt, dripping into the record. The harp’s fragile and innocent sound recalls the delicate balancing of the local environment, as well as the rhythm of the tide.
‘Chop on the Climbout’ ascends into the air, warbling and wobbling with a weightless synth before introducing a lower and prevalent humming, which could mirror the sound of a propeller in motion as a light aircraft flies over a corner of the Atlantic, a sliver of coastline dissected by the blue-grey sea, and the slight bumps of synth gently rock the body of the aircraft. Ocean tides splash against the greenery of the countryside, just as a light synth will on occasion gently wash up beside the harp. Halstead’s guitar tells tales of the sea, too, joining her on ‘Til A Mermaid Drags You Under’ and painting the track with darker, stormier colours.
“Neil has this poster of a surfer in his studio and I’d look at it each day, looking at the sunlight glinting on the dark wave. In these songs I like the contrast between the dark lows and the glittering highs. The gloom and the glimmer, the opposites, a lively surfing town in the winter turned kinda rainy and empty and quiet.”
The contrasts between the dark-eyed synth and the light-emitting harp are night and day, winter versus summer; in the winter, tourists are long gone and the summer-stretching days slip into rainy, dreary afternoons, with desolate harbours and rain-slicked streets being a far cry from the golden days of July and August. Silver Ladders carefully strolls between the two seasons while sharing one county: Cornwall. During her time in south-west England, Lattimore was enthralled by the Cornish landscape, with her memories also including a visit to The Headland Hotel (recognizable for featuring in a film that haunted my childhood, The Witches), sampling cream teas, winning a pub quiz, enjoying a Sunday roast, thinking of the surfers who had lost their lives in the unpredictable, wild waters below, and ‘night walks to the top of the hill to see the moon shining on the water’. Lattimore has captured all of this and more within Silver Ladders; the music is a native of the land.