The Hinterhaus is the long-awaited sophomore album from harpist/singer-songwriter Gillian Grassie. Partnered with producer Todd Sickafoose (Ani DiFranco, Anaïs Mitchell, Erin McKeown) and an all-star ensemble of musicians, including guest vocals from Janis Ian, it marks a stunning return.
While “The Canonization of Margot Price” and “August” swell with lush, layered orchestration, Sickafoose and Grassie stayed true to their vision of a harp and vocal-centric recording, with most songs on the album featuring sparse arrangements that allow individual or small collections of instruments to explore their voices with that of the harp in an intimate soundscape, like the accordion and harp duets in “Marrow of a Bone” and “The Mark,” the marimba and vibraphone-driven “Back to Your Flat,” and Ben Goldberg’s haunting, throaty clarinet woven throughout the title track. Two songs, “Sweet Manhattan” and “Summer” are single-take solo performances of just harp and voice. The sonic palate of the record includes lots of dark, warm sounds; you can hear bellows and reeds and wood vibrations – it’s delicious.
Grassie spent a year with her harp on her back and her heart on her sleeve, traveling abroad for a Thomas J. Watson Fellowsihp that took her through France, Germany, India, Indonesia, China, and Russia. Most of the songs on The Hinterhaus were penned on her journey. The album’s title is a German word meaning “behind house” and refers to a common urban layout that involves a street front building, opening onto a courtyard, and then a secondary house hidden behind the first. After living in a hinterhaus in Berlin for several months, Grassie became captivated by the idea of a hinterhaus as metaphor for the layered interiority of human experience, the secret place in our hearts and minds where we sequester our private thoughts and emotions from the presentation of our public selves. This metaphorical hinterhaus can be a place of refuge and solace or a prison of isolation and alienation, and Grassie explores these possibilities in rich, poetic lyrics as a common thread throughout the record.
Gillian Grassie: voice & harp //
Todd Sickafoose: bass, vibraphone & marimba //
Rob Reich: accordion //
Ben Goldberg: clarinet //
Dina Maccabee: violin & viola //
Allison Miller: drums //
Janis Ian: guest voice & piano on "dust and wax" //
Produced, arranged, recorded & mixed by Todd Sickafoose at Earycanal.
Janis Ian recorded by Brandon Bell at Minutia Sound.
Allison Miller recorded by Ken Rich at Grand Street Recording.
Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music.
all songs written by Gillian Grassie
© 2013 Gillian Grassie