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Nerissa Shwarz - Playgrounds Lost album review

Spooky instrumental fairy tales

NERISSA SHWARZ Playgrounds Lost cover art

After an album under the name Coronal Rain, Nerissa Schwarz joined German prog band Frequency Drift five years ago, her harp arrangements becoming one of their trademarks. She’s now produced her first solo album proper. Performed on electric harp and Mellotron, it’s an instrumental, Proustian reverie on the fragility of childhood, which shifts subtly from gentle pastoral nuance to busier, impressionistic noise.

That’s all within a very calm, placid surface atmosphere, though there’s something unnerving and gothic-creepy about the undercurrents, emphasised by the faint folk leanings. Ambient as it is, the music never quite allows the listener to settle, suggesting that the traumas of childhood are at least as significant a theme as the innocence. These fairy tales harbour a sinister heart and some shadowy creatures in their mysterious forests. That Mellotron muscles forth on the likes of Fireflying and No More Games, its interactions with the harp unusual but alluring, while Something Behind Trees ramps up the elegiac Angela Carter echoes. Melancholy yet no easy listen, Playgrounds Lost is a challenge laced with charm, rewarding you with edgy, tense refinement.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.