Today, the innovative electronic artist and harpist Lara Somogyi has released her debut album, entitled ‘!’ (pronounced “Exclamation”), via Mercury KX.
With ‘!’, Somogyi builds a new creative sound world – an atmosphere – based around the harp, its expressive capabilities and its electronics. It is the result of a decade-long dive into sonic exploration, which pushes the harp to its furthest potential. Here, we are introduced to a whole world of sound from a single instrument.
The LA-based musician and composer explain, “Every single sound you hear on the album comes directly from the harp.I wanted to express everything this instrument can do.”
Recorded in Somogyi’s home studio in Los Angeles, alongside producer Cyrus Reynolds, who co-composed the album, the results are electrifying. It is about shifting people’s perspective of the harp, changing the worlds that it operates within, and bringing in electronic sounds with an array of guitar pedals and loops.
Born in Hawaii to Hungarian parents, Somogyi’s introduction to harp-playing more often walked a traditional route. Somogyi then leaned into an improv approach while studying at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London, composing colour schemes and visuals. This, combined with a handful of chance meetings with super-producer Brian Eno, led to Somogyi’s unique and utterly entrancing sound. Eno’s profound impact unleashed an extra sensory layer within Somogyi’s creative approach as he directly changed her view of the world and its relationship to sound.
Somogyi remembers, “I had an awakening to the fact there are tonnes of ways you can feel, hear, touch, smell.” So, in came the harp. “Shouting into the soundboard creates a choir. Your feet manipulate the pedals. You can use a space echo and have the instrument sound like it’s in a massive hall.”
Explaining the creative process further, the harpist says “Sometimes the songs would come from a structured and composed piece. Other times it would be improvisatory and chopped up later. Because the harp is vast and luscious, I love exploring the angular and more expressive types of playing.”
Somogyi’s impressive list of ongoing features includes integral work on Bonobo’s seventh studio album ‘Fragments’ and the Ben Lukas Boysen’s ‘Spells’ record with Erased Tapes. Somogyi was also specifically requested to explore and record harp textures for Hans Zimmer’s ‘Blue Planet II’ soundtrack featuring Radiohead, as well as a number of film soundtracks (including ‘The Lion King’) and big-blockbuster collaborations involving the likes of Anderson .Paak to Ariana Grande and Camila Cabello.
For Lara, the release of ‘!’ revolves around further hyper-creative deviations from traditional harp techniques. Somogyi put blu-tack onto the strings. She used a bow. In one instance, a milk frother is used. There are deep layers of texture throughout, manipulating the harp into new frontiers. ‘!’ is like a journey between the electronic and classical worlds.