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patrickbeare
14th June 2022

Mary Lattimore stuns and enthralls at The White Hotel

Patrick heads to the White Hotel in Salford to check out the mesmerising Mary Lattimore and Ben Bertrand
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Mary Lattimore stuns and enthralls at The White Hotel
Mary Lattimore performs at The White Hotel. Photo: Patrick Beare @ The Mancunion

An intimate crowd at Salford’s White Hotel were treated to a pair of stunning performances from harpist Mary Lattimore and bass clarinetist Ben Bertrand.

The White Hotel, opened in 2015 on the site of a former mechanic’s garage, couldn’t be more anonymous. With no signage outside whatsoever, and crammed into Salford’s backstreets amongst fabric mills and car parks, if you don’t know what you’re looking for you could easily walk straight past it; a welcome antidote to today’s hyper-marketed music venues such as the Warehouse Project. With its DJ booth on cinder blocks and the stage being little more than a raised platform where cars used to sit, it maintains the DIY spirit that its founders intended, and that is so sorely lacking from many other Mancunian music venues. The Shining plays on a loop in the bar – it’s not clear whether they choose specific films for specific events or if Kubrick’s classic horror plays on repeat 24/7, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the latter were true.

Mary Lattimore’s ‘We Wave From Our Boats’, from the compilation ‘Collected Pieces: 2015 -2020’.

Bass clarinettist Ben Bertrand took the stage first, accompanied by a makeshift music stand constructed from a plastic tub lid, a laptop, and far more pedals then would ever be necessary. Over the next half hour, he constructed gorgeously unsettling soundscapes, accompanied by ghostly loops and backing tracks. Behind the stage was a curtain, through which the audience could see The Shining playing in the bar; Bertrand’s music wouldn’t have been out of place amongst the film’s iconic soundtrack, featuring contemporary composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki, Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, and György Ligeti.

Ben Bertrand, with his bass clarinet and array of pedals at The White Hotel, 2nd June 2022
Ben Bertrand, with his bass clarinet and array of pedals. Photo: Patrick Beare @ The Mancunion

After a brief break, Mary Lattimore took the stage, accompanied by just her harp and a Line 6 DL4 delay/looper pedal. Whilst this meant that the music she created was more minimal than the pieces on her studio albums that feature the likes of guitar and synthesizer, it was no less gorgeous – being able to see Lattimore construct her songs piece by piece, plucking her harp with the precision of a lace seamstress sewing intricate patterns, was an enthralling experience.

Mary Lattimore adjusts a loop on her DL4 unit at The White Hotel, 2nd June 2022
Mary Lattimore adjusts a loop on her DL4 unit. Photo: Patrick Beare @ The Mancunion

Lattimore’s music may appear rather solitary, and with her performance of pieces that evoke ideas of isolation, such as ‘For Scott Kelly, Returned To Earth’, written as an ode to the titular astronaut on his return from space, and Lattimore’s analogous return to society after an accident left her jaw wired shut for months, rendering her incapable of speech, one could be forgiven for assuming that her stage presence would be rather closed-off with minimal crowd engagement. However, she fostered a close connection with her audience, something that is often lacking in live experimental music, chatting between songs and sharing anecdotes – and even having a brief shouted conversation through the stage curtain with someone in the bar who appeared to be a huge fan of Scott Kelly’s, whooping upon Lattimore’s mention of his name.

One such example was the story of her song ‘Wawa by the Ocean’, written for the gas station chain Wawa that can be found along the United States’ eastern coast. Lattimore told the audience that she would take the bus to one of Wawa’s locations in Ship Bottom, New Jersey, change in their bathrooms and then swim in the Atlantic Ocean – a ritual which lasted thirteen years before she relocated to Los Angeles. On the song’s release, Wawa sent Lattimore a thank you package of ‘some really bad coffee, some decaf coffee (which I don’t drink), and an “I ❤️ Wawa” t-shirt’; she even made it onto the convenience store industry’s most popular news website!

Mary Lattimore performing to a bewitched audience
Mary Lattimore performing to a bewitched audience. Photo: Patrick Beare @ The Mancunion

Lattimore’s set drew mostly from her last two solo studio albums, Hundreds of Days (2018) and 2020’s Silver Ladders, produced by Neil Halstead of Slowdive, as well as the 2021 compilation Collected Pieces: 2015-2020. She’s certainly no slacker, having already released an album this year with guitarist Paul Sukeena, West Kensington, as well as collaborative records with guitarist Mal McCaughan, drone/ambient group Growing, and traditional folk musician Meg Baird, all in the last few years. Whilst all these releases may serve to ad extra elements to Lattimore’s already-stunning soundscapes, her set proves that all she really needs to succeed is her harp, her delay pedal – and her charming stage presence.

 

Mary Lattimore’s latest album, ‘West Kensington’ with Paul Sukeena, is out now. Buy and listen to it here!


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