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On her latest LP, Silver Ladders, LA-based and Philly-rooted harpist Mary Lattimore showcases the versatility of ambient music.

At times, her harp-playing takes center stage, spinning rich melodies with the luminescence of sunshine refracting through water. In other areas, her instrumentation lurks just beneath the surface, opting to create all-encompassing soundscapes with no beginning nor end. Produced by Slowdive’s Neil Halstead, the two musicians’ approach to ambient instrumental music is full of rich imagery and carefully-composed soundscapes. While each and every song on Silver Ladders is stunning, the more melodic pieces stand above the rest.

Though the record clocks in at a cool 40 minutes, there’s only seven tracks: five range from three to five minutes, while the other two pad out the rest of the runtime. The longest track, “Til A Mermaid Drags You Under,” feels more like a sonic painting than a traditional single. Lattimore’s harp offers broad, confident brushstrokes to lay the foundation of the track, before more instruments add on to color in the empty space. Guitar plucks and synth drones unfurl gently, carefully blending with Lattimore’s endless harp loops to create a palette with infinitely vivid colors.

“Don’t Look,” the other longer cut, revels in a similar sense of ambience. “Don’t Look” has a much darker feel, however, as dissonant bass chords clash with Lattimore’s gently lilting harp. Each pluck, strum, and noise echoes dozens of times, pinging around the mix: it’s simultaneously enchanting and confusing, carrying the surreal feeling of a lucid dream.

Other tracks feel similarly three-dimensional, but are a bit more grounded, offering swelling melodies and countermelodies. The title track opens with an arpeggiating harp, before Mary Lattimore carefully coaxes a melody out of the nascent loops. Although the more ambient parts of Silver Ladders are equally gorgeous, Lattimore’s careful arrangements really shine on these otherworldly pieces. When the “Silver Ladders” melody crescendos, the effect is absolutely transcendental, and immensely cathartic, like placing down the last piece in a puzzle that’s as massive and complex as the cosmos.

“Sometimes He’s In My Dreams” offers a similar effect, though Halstead’s guitar playing is featured more prominently. The Slowdive influence is especially strong on this track, and the dream pop-esque approach to the harp instrumental is peak Slowdive perfection.

Whether Silver Ladders leans more ambient or melodic, it’s easily one of the most spellbinding releases of the year, and Lattimore continues to create some of the most beautiful music out there. Listen to Mary Lattimore’s Silver Ladders below.

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