Andy Aquarius is a Berlin-based harpist, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist whose new album Chapel drops you into another realm, one where time slows, and no one is rushing to get anywhere. It’s released by Hush Hush records who specialise in music that works with late nights, early mornings and headphones (something I can wholeheartedly confirm). From the opening bars of the title track you feel like you have found that hidden door into the Secret Garden. The air smells a little sweeter, the grass is greener, and you feel cloistered from the outside world. The cascading notes of the harp evoke everything from pastoral scenes to other worlds, and it’s not surprising the instrument is often associated with all things heavenly. There are examples of harps dating back over 5000 years, and for something that produces such a delicate sound the strings can exert up to 1500 pounds of pressure on the frame.

These are tracks that take time to unfold and require your indulgence. ‘Chapel’ mixes susurrating runs of notes with Aquarius’s soft, baritone voice and far-off angelic harmonies, ‘High On The Astral Horse’ starts slow before breaking into a canter and features wonderful use of harmonics on the harp, ‘Soon We’ll Move’ is a gently bouncing ballad with the harp playing counterpoint to the tune, and ‘Morning Will Come’ also features vocals from friend Maja Presnell whose light, morning-sunshine voice perfectly complements the dusk of Aquarius’s voice. ‘The Phase Has Changed’ switches between light dissonance and sweetness and I found it reminiscent of Claude Debussy’s ‘Claire de Lune III’ or ‘Feux d’artifice, and Chapel’s final track ‘Aquarius Moon’ features improvised harp over tidal washes of layered strings.

Chapel works beautifully as a whole, like the seasons or a lunar cycle played out across the album. When so much ambient music is electronic it’s great to listen to something so organic and Aquarius’s playing could easily be constructed from spider’s webs, frost on glass or a warm breeze across a wheatfield. If you’re in a hurry, then hold off listening to this album until you have time; this is a bath not a shower. These compositions are cinematic and tranquil, and I know I will keep returning to Chapel whenever I want to wash away the stress of a week.

Andy Aquarius socials: Instagram | Facebook | Website

Review by Paul F Cook

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