Lacuna is the debut album by guitarist Tom Hamilton and pianist Holly Bowling. The duo, who also perform together in the acclaimed rock band Ghost Light, captured the music in one stream-of-consciousness, completely-improvised recording session at Hamilton’s studio The Ballroom in Philadelphia. Exploring the outer limits of creating music in the moment through a series of ambient excursions, Hamilton and Bowling showcase their powerful musical connection.
The impetus for recording Lacuna came during the summer of 2020 while Bowling was isolated at her home in Northern California and Hamilton essentially lived in his Philadelphia studio. Bowling—pregnant with her first child at the time—embarked on a cross-country road trip to visit her family in Maine. On her way back home in September, she took a detour to visit Hamilton. The pair caught up, sat down at their instruments, Bowling on baby grand piano and Hamilton on acoustic guitar, and hit record.
“It was all very organic,” Hamilton recalls. “We hit save, she left, and we didn’t talk about it.”
In fact, the music sat on a hard drive unheard until Hamilton, with time on his hands last February, listened back and realized they had something special. The resulting 46-minutes of ambient instrumental improvisation became Lacuna. Recorded in one take with no overdubs, the pair had to reverse engineer the album, splitting the improvisation into eight tracks with names.
“We were just playing to play,” Bowling notes. “I was so intensely missing that spark and connection of playing music with someone else and having that back and forth. It was the happiest I had been in ages, even though the music sounds pretty dark in places, and it was definitely a very dark time. Tapping into that and then getting it out was cathartic.”
The title Lacuna came from one of the many books Bowling read during quarantine. She didn’t know what the word meant so she looked it up and found that the definition: “a gap, an unfilled space, or an intentional, extended passage in a musical work during which no notes are played.” It perfectly encapsulated the pandemic era and the sounds the pair had made while living through it.
“I’ve felt more and more comfortable in those in-between spaces,” Bowling concludes. “That’s really where I’ve been wanting to spend my time, and with Lacuna, that’s the entire thing.”