Through evocative, emotionally resonant music, Goodbye, Hotel Arkada, the new LP from American harpist and composer Mary Lattimore, speaks not just for its beloved namesake — a hotel in Croatia facing renovation — but for a universal loss that is shared. Six sprawling pieces shaped by change; nothing will ever be the same, and here, the artist, evolving in synthesis, celebrates and mourns the tragedy and beauty of the ephemeral, all that is lived and lost to time. Documented and edited in uncharacteristically measured sessions over the course of two years, the material remains rooted in improvisation while glistening as the most refined and robust in Lattimore’s decade-long catalog. It finds her communing with friends, contemporaries, and longtime influences, in full stride yet slowing down to nurture songs in new ways. The cast includes Lol Tolhurst (The Cure), Meg Baird, Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), Roy Montgomery, Samara Lubelski, and Walt McClements.
“When I think of these songs, I think about fading flowers in vases, melted candles, getting older, being on tour and having things change while you’re away, not realizing how ephemeral experiences are until they don’t happen anymore, fear for a planet we’re losing because of greed, an ode to art and music that’s really shaped your life that can transport you back in time, longing to maintain sensitivity and to not sink into hollow despondency.”
Memories, scenes, and split-second impressions have long filled Lattimore’s musical universe. As one of today’s preeminent instrumental storytellers, she has “the uncanny ability to pluck a string in a way that will instantly make someone remember the taste of their fifth birthday cake,” writes Pitchfork’s Jemima Skala. Lattimore’s impulse to record life as it happens matches her drive to travel and perform, as profiled by Grayson Haver Currin for The New York Times: “Lattimore recognized that being in motion shook loose strands of inspiration, moods she wanted to express with melody. She needed, then, to remain on the go.” That sense of fluidity has also made her a prolific collaborator outside of solo work. 2020’s Silver Ladders, recorded with Slowdive’s Neil Halstead, opened the door for Lattimore to widen the vision of her primary project as well, and its proper follow-up is the natural next scale. “All of these people I asked to contribute have deeply affected and inspired my life.”
For the title and inspiration, Lattimore’s mind returns to the island of Hvar in Croatia, where she first saw those silver ladders at the water’s edge. “There’s a big old hotel there called the Hotel Arkada, and you could tell it had been hosting holiday-goers for decades in a great way. I walked around the lobby and the empty ballrooms and it looked like a well-worn, well-loved place. My friend Stacey who lives there told me to ‘say goodbye to Hotel Arkada, it might not be here when you get back’ and I heard soon after that it was actually going to be renovated in a very crisp, modern way.” Lattimore became fixated on the ingredients that make a place special — for Hotel Arkada, the patinaed chandeliers, the patternedbedspreads, the echoes of its intangible charm — and how when those leave this world, as they inevitably always will, it feels important to memorialize them, “to bottle it for a brief second.”
Support: Warsaw-based harpist and composer Anna Pašić