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Hatchie - Keepsake Music Album Reviews

Hatchie's platonic ideal of dream pop goes down a bit too easy, like another rewatch of a John Hughes film.
Shoegaze offers the perfect place to bury bad feelings; there is a storied legacy of groups like Slowdive and Mazzy Star sinking Tory conservatism and post-breakup remorse into hazy swirls of distortion. Harriette Pilbeam uses Hatchie as an outlet for more quotidian concerns — friendships, romances, nostalgia. On her EP Sugar & Spice, Pilbeam offered glassy guitars, long sighs, and some bright choruses, but there was nothing darker beneath the surface to reward your close, ongoing attention. She promised a broader palette for her debut, but Keepsake feels hemmed in by the same lack of depth. Pillbeam's platonic ideal of dream pop goes down a bit too easy, like another rewatch of a John Hughes film.

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John Luther Adams - Become Desert Music Album Reviews

The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer’s latest installment in his Become trilogy is expansive and inviting. The piece explores resonance and the way sounds mutate, stick in our heads, or just disappear.

John Luther Adams has long been a naturalist outsider to the insular world of classical music. In 2014, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for Become Ocean, an orchestral piece that rumbles and bursts and flutters, pointedly bringing to mind the shifting tides of the sea. Become Desert is Adams’ sequel to his mammoth Ocean. The piece offers a calmer and more inviting journey than its predecessor. Desert is wide and expansive with a stillness that makes it the most forgiving piece of Adams’ Become trilogy, which also includes the intricate and winding Become River.


Across Desert, Adams explores resonance and the way sounds mutate, stick in our heads, or just disappear. A high-pitched ringing may stick around so long that you forget it’s gone when it’s morphed into another note. Sometimes that noise comes from a chorus of women singing “luz;” other times it’s violins holding a placid tone. It’s not the sort of place you want to sit and think, as may be the case with genre-tagged “ambient music.” But there’s also not the underlying dread present in Ocean. Instead, Desert offers some intangible glimmering: Bells and chimes ring only to plop away; horns swell gently but don’t linger. It doesn’t sound designed to exist for very long.

There’s a moment midway through Desert that recalls the “Sunrise” movement of Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra. The Seattle Symphony, however, dampens the drums and brass for a much humbler evocation of sunrise. It’s emblematic of the piece as a whole: The nature that John Luther Adams wants to conjure is real, not some imagined fantasy of the outdoors to symbolize the human condition. Humanity is not built to survive the desert for long stretches. An orchestral piece about the desert should, Adams’ music suggests, reflect the inability to conquer vast swaths of arid land.

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A darkness surrounded John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean. Strings quivered and crescendoed as drums rolled beneath them, instilling a sense of danger. The piece has lighter moments, but they’re quickly washed away by louder passages, as when piano roars behind the horns and strings. Hearing Ocean now highlights how restrained Desert is. The various instruments become indistinguishable at times, as if they’ve all decided to float together at a higher plane instead of crashing together from all different directions to envelop the listener. Even at its loudest, Desert does not feel menacing.

John Luther Adams has assessed nature’s extremes. There’s the ocean, which is inspiring and life-giving. But it’s also a beast, an unpredictable entity that will swallow you whole if you’re not careful. And now with the desert, Adams is reverent in his portrayal, reflecting the landscape’s openness and the ephemera that may flit in and out of the frame. With Become Desert, Adams portrays a respectful image of the world, full of beauty yet unknowable.


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