“Playgrounds Lost” is the second solo album of harpist and Mellotron player Nerissa Schwartz who we all know from the German progressive rock ensemble Frequency Drift. After her first solo album under the moniker of Coronal Rain, she joined the band as composer and musician for their 2011 release “Ghosts”. You can find a review of this wonderful album on progVisions. I have always liked Frequency Drift because of the use of not so commonly used instruments in progressive rock
“Playgrounds Lost” is performed entirely on electric harp and Mellotron. The album is a haunting exploration of the beauty, fragility and traumas of childhood. In her own words; “it shifts between wistful pastoral moments and dark, uncanny textures, the music progresses from folk-like melodies to noise, from ambient soundscapes to intricate, impressionistic compositions”.
Nerissa Schwartz - electric harp, Mellotron
When I heard that Nerissa had made an album with only electric harp and Mellotron I was very curious about the music. For all Mellotron lovers I must give a little warning, the instrument is used in a very delicate way ... so don't expect huge walls of Mellotron. Most of the unique sounds are generated by the electric harp. First I didn't believed my own ears. Hearing electric piano and xylophone/marimba sounds (Dance around black hole). But it was just a small part of the a huge sound palette of Nerissa's electric harp.
On the opener “Play” you can hear the fairy-tale like harp sounds in a cinematic and atmospheric setting. The dark Mellotron sounds gives a nice contrast. As I told you before, “Dance around black hole” has xylophone/marimba like sounds. The atmosphere of the piece is very dark. But personally I think that overall the whole album radiates a dark and melancholic atmosphere. The short cinematic piece “Running out” is a little bit more up lifting. “Fire flying” opens with a beautiful Mellotron flute part and together with the delicate electric harp sounds the piece develops into a song of pure beauty. The atmosphere stays mellow and delicate in “Last spring” that has some classical influences. In “Yellow skies” the light colors of the harp intertwine with the dark colors of the Mellotron. “Something behind trees” is a diverse and mysterious track in which the tension of the music is slowly building up. In “No more games” we first hear a Twin Peaks like cinematic sound that is later displaced by ominous soundscapes. The album closes with the title track “Playgrounds Lost” in which the harp is bringing the light and melodic colors and is accompanied later by beautiful Mellotron strings.
Well this is an intriguing album with fairy-tale and folk-like melodies in contrast with the often dark Mellotron soundscapes. The music has a cinematic, mellow and atmospheric character and is often very dark. Maybe melancholic is a better word ... but still ... it is dark. I am always surprised by the pure beauty of melancholic music. In some way we all can connect with this kind of music on an emotional level. This album is for the open minded music lover. If you listen with an open heart to this dark music it slowly will reveal its pure beauty. I am intrigued by this unique combination of electric harp and Mellotron soundscapes ... often the beautiful melodies are bringing you, the listener, in a state of pure bliss. If you, like me, are intrigued by unconventional sound design and cinematic atmospheres, don't miss this delicate album.