Andrew Poppy: Shiny Floor Shiny Ceiling UK CD 
- Thoughts On The Language Of Others
- Dark Spell
- Shiny Floor Shiny Ceiling
- Persephone Calls
- Dance With Me
- Singing Into The Air
- If I Could Copy You
- Knackers Yard Blues
- Do The Flip
Andrew Poppy was one of the more appealing modern composers who was given a forum for reaching his audience through Morley + Horn’s ZTT label back when they were a point of obsession for The Monk. Poppy had studied with John Cage, the elephant in the room of New Music and released two albums of modern minimalist music on ZTT before the House of Horn dispersed. His new album, “Shiny Floor, Shiny Ceiling” is due out on Wednesday, November 7th. His music was part of the uncommercial element X that made ZTT such an appealing phenomenon in its heyday. I just heard a promo of the new album and it’s fascinating listening that bridges modern operatic leanings, poetry, and pop songs.
The album begins with “Thoughts On The Language Of Others” featuring Poppy himself on vocals as he recites a self-referential poem on the creation and selling of music sounding not unlike Terrence Stamp fronting a minimalist combo with luscious vibraphone shot through it. It casts a dreamy, hypnotic spell and like Stamp, there’s the slightest hint of belligerence just below the surface of his urgent narration.
Claudia Brücken sings track 2, “Dark Spell,” the closest thing here to a pop song as we typically think of it. The track’s delicacy recalls hints of 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” but is less grandiloquent. The title cut as sung by tenor James Gilchrist is thrilling in ways not unlike Klaus Nomi and Philip Glass experimenting with glitch music. Gilchrist also appears on “Singing Into The Air.” The variety of vocalists on the album are intriguing in that over half of them of them speak English as a second language. This helps to give the album an enigmatic Old World disposition that verges on the hypnotic. Poppy brings beauty and clarity to the music even as he moves away from the minimalism that an album like “The Beating Of Wings” established for him initially at ZTT.
The album he made years ago with Claudia Brücken, “Another Language,” isn’t a touchstone for this collection either, since that album was an acoustic affair of piano and guitar. The vocabulary of this album incorporates anything he deems necessary to make his point. He himself takes lead vocals on the single “If I Could Copy You” and the album has been mixed by Paul Humphreys of OMD, who keeps things vibrant and engaging. That this is a vocal album by a minimalist composer [Poppy wrote the lyrics] gives it a fascinating spin.
Poppy dominates the closing “Do The Flip,” which is a closing soliloquy of burning intensity that borders on the hostile, but not through the polite, gently chittering music. It gains its belligerence solely through Poppy’s delivery of the titular poem as he builds in intensity until he reaches a point of stopping; whereupon the music continues to resolve the tensions he left hanging. It finally ends with a drone overlaid on the sound of surface noise as the album recedes from earshot.
The net result is quite different from his first ZTT album, “The Beating Of Wings,” which is my greatest point of familiarity with Poppy. Brücken collectors will of course have to buy a copy but all who board the good ship “Shiny Floor Shiny Ceiling” will be assured of a dazzling ride by an artist who is confident at coloring outside of the outlines we may have already defined for him. The CD is a limited edition affair, so if physical formats mean anything to you, make certain to purchase a copy here. The rest can purchase a download from the usual places. Speaking as an American, the iTunes Store has the download available from today.
Anyone in London should consider attending the three concerts Poppy and all of his singers are mounting November 8-10 in just a few days at Jacksons Lane. After hearing this I can imagine how exciting it would be to see this work performed live; especially considering that all of the vocalists will be there to reprise their roles.
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