Modern classical harpist Mary Lattimore and producer Jeff Zeigler have collaborated to create the chamber coral ascension of notes that rise up like helium that is, “The White Balloon”. Mary’s strings lift scales skyward, from Jeff’s immersive environments that are conducted throughout the duo’s forthcoming album, Slant of Light, available September 23 from Thrill Jockey.
On “The White Balloon”, narratives of flight move upwards like polychloroprene vessels making their way to the stratosphere. Lattimore’s strings follow the takeoff point from the ground, chased by the gradual introduction of Zeigler’s subtle mix of staging sounds that absorb all inhabited spaces with atmospheric real estate. Like the harp-strummed hearts from the folk fringe found in the works of Carol Kleyn to indie minstrels like Joanna Newsom who favor the classic strings; Mary’s cascading chords pick and softly plunk music that is made and measured for both home parlors and the limitless patchwork of parks, along with any and all outdoor places. The gentle calm of the instrument creates a blind that blurs the audio markers of modern, neo-classical, and other applicable descriptions as Jeff’s production encapsulates the accumulated incidental field noise that fuses the sounds of the city and prairie into an effective combination. We had an opportunity to talk to both Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler about their upcoming creative album, Slant of Light, which you can read following the premiere of “The White Balloon” below.
Mary, what was that has always connected you to the harp, in both classical, modern, experimental, and other discovered forms?
Mary: I have played the harp since I was eleven and my mom is also a harpist, so growing up, I always felt like it was very familiar and special to me. Playing a sort of unique, mostly solo instrument really allows you to express yourself personally and I’ve really appreciated how there’s freedom to do new and weird things with it. Because of all of the strings and pedals, there’s a lot of potential. I feel like my relationship with it is deepening with every new project and experiment.
Jeff, how did you get into the engineering and production game, that has seen you working behind the scenes on records from A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Nothing, The War on Drugs, etc?
Jeff: I played guitar when I was a kid but kind of lost interest in it until college when I took a recording class and was able to borrow an old school cassette 4-track for extended periods of time. I started spending hours writing and recording simultaneously and experimenting with sound, which eventually led to me buying my own 4-track, and then 8-track, recording my own stuff and friends bands and then on and on from there. I’ve always been fascinated by creating mutant timbres, and was into a lot of bands who recorded themselves way before I ever started recording myself, so it all just kind of made sense and came together naturally.
How did the two of you discover your own creative intersection, and how do you describe your own creative synergy?
Mary: Jeff and I got to know each other when I was on tour with Thurston Moore and Jeff was doing sound for Kurt Vile. We’d been sort of peripheral acquaintances but hung out in backstage spots on this tour. After touring with Thurston, I wanted to work on a solo record and asked Jeff if he’d be up for working with me. He played on my solo record (The Withdrawing Room) and we then started playing some shows as a duo. Our music and our friendship developed at the same time; it was all really natural and cool. I think we play well together because Jeff’s ear is so great. He’s a really sensitive player with whatever instrument he is working with.
What was the process of recording Slant of Light between the harp strings and production booth atmospheres and presences?
Mary: It was really snowy, so Jeff and I locked ourselves in his studio (Uniform Recording) for two days and didn’t leave. We just played and hung out and the record came out of the quietness of the brutal weather, trying to find some hope in the winter-that-wouldn’t-end!
What do you both listen to when you’re not working, performing, and playing with some of the world’s most exciting musicians and groups?
Mary: My three favorite things right now are:
Jim Ringer’s Waitin’ for the Hard Times to Go.
The soundtrack for The American Dreamer documentary.
Mimi Parker’s voice (she sings with the band Low).
Jeff: Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of John Bender (early 80’s bent bedroom electro-pop vibes), Crescent’s By the Road and the Fields, and Clan of Xymox’s song, “No Words” like 10 times a day.
Check out their following tour dates with Steve Gunn and more.
09 Philadelphia, PA – Kensington Picnic II (with Strapping Fieldhands, Birds of Maya, Laura Baird, etc)
26 Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts with Kevin Morby, Steve Gunn
25 Chicago, IL – Constellation
29 Salisbury, MD – Salisbury University Art Galleries
04 Hudson, NY – The Half Moon wwith Steve Gunn
07 Chicago, IL – Schuba’s with Steve Gunn
09 Nashville, TN – The Stone Fox with Steve Gunn
13 Boston, MA – Great Scott with Steve Gunn
14 Montreal, QC – Casa del Popolo with Steve Gunn
15 Toronto, ON – Drake with Steve Gunn