Penguin Cafe – Handfuls of Night (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 46:39 minutes | 817 MB | Genre: Chamber Jazz, Instrumental
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Erased Tapes
On October 4th Erased Tapes present Handfuls of Night the highly anticipated follow-up to Penguin Cafe’s much applauded 2017 album The Imperfect Sea inspired by the Antarctic, Arthur Jeffes’ journey following in Scott’s footsteps and our penguin friends that reside there. Using gut-stringed violins, viola, cello, bass, percussion, upright and grand pianos, synthesiser, harmonium and more, Arthur Jeffes and his cohorts have crafted a vivid series of panoramic sonic landscapes, that are as rich in cerebral poignancy as they are in emotional depth. Bookended by the atmospheric ambient piano pieces ‘Winter Sun’ and ‘Midnight Sun’, the album traverses glacial minimalism with ease, combining their signature contemporary classical panoramas, such as the melancholic yet upbeat lead track ‘At the Top of the Hill, They Stood…’ and the colossal cinematic piece ‘Chapter’, with the crystalline folktronica on ‘Pythagorus on the Line Again’ a re-visiting and continuation of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s 1993 Union Cafe song on the principles of harmonics. Handfuls of Night began life after Greenpeace commissioned Jeffes to write four pieces of music corresponding to four breeds of penguins, to help raise awareness for the endangered Antarctic seas. A fundraising evening at EartH in Hackney followed, where Penguin Cafe premiered the four songs named after their feathered counterparts to a sold out audience; the rousing contemporary folk inflected ‘Chinstrap’, the mournful and minimalistic ‘Adelie’, stoic and rhythmic ‘The Life of an Emperor’ and the wistful, string-laden ‘Gentoo Origin’. Handfuls of Night’s tones, textures and melodies evoke otherworldly expanses, which at different junctures are either foreboding, awe inspiring or peaceful. There’s subtly morphing rhythmic repetition throughout, somewhere between minimalism, krautrock and the piano-cascades of label peer Lubomyr Melnyk. Jeffes creates a kinetic, circling motion, which drives the album forward in the form of a musical trip that mirrors the physical journey it was inspired by.
Using his status as a glam rock icon, Brian Eno launched the label Obscure Records in the mid- 70s, allowing him to bring his most experimental projects to life and introduce his listeners to works by contemporary composers with somewhat discrete audiences (Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman, Harold Budd…), the British equivalent to the American minimalist movement (Riley, Glass, Reich…). 1976 marked the release of Penguin Café Orchestra’s debut album, a group founded by the British composer Simon Jeffes. After exploring rock and contemporary music, Jeffes became interested in the spontaneous aspect of traditional music. He synthesised these three genres by combining classical instruments (from Europe and elsewhere) with manipulated tapes and electronic accessories, and in doing so defined an energetic, conceptual and light sound.
Penguin Café Orchestra continued for decades, crafting a strong, influential identity right up until Jeffes’ death in 1997. Ten years later, his son Arthur Jeffes, also a composer (Sundog, Aparat), decided to continue his father’s legacy and, by shortening the name, brought Penguin Café back to life. He revisited their original repertoire as well as developing the group’s sound through new inspired compositions. Handful of Nights is the fruit of an expedition to Antarctica, bringing artists and scientists together under the auspices of Greenpeace. Arthur Jeffes was particularly moved by the beautiful scenery. The album begins with the dazzling Winter Sun and ends with the dusky Midnight Sun, two pieces where the piano seems to illustrate the Northern lights. Four pieces were inspired by the behaviour of different types of penguins: Chinstrap, Adelie, The Life of an Emperor and Gentoo Origin. The instruments recreate the birds’ amusing way of waddling, as well as describing the ruffling of their feathers and their splendid environment. Pythagorus on the Line Again is a reworking of one of the tracks from Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s last album, Union Café (1993). Situated somewhere between folktronica, pastoral ambience and updated minimalism, Handful of Nights unveils soothing and stimulating music with the added bonus of promoting ecological awareness. – Benjamin MiNiMuM
01. Winter Sun
05. At the Top of the Hill, They Stood…
06. Pythagoras on the Line Again
07. The Life of an Emperor
08. Gentoo Origin
09. Midnight Sun