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Penguin Cafe: The Imperfect Sea

Mark Sullivan By

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Composer Arthur Jeffes started Penguin Cafe in 2009 to pay homage to his father Simon Jeffes' Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and to continue the concept. While the new band still plays some of the original repertoire, Arthur has composed new music all along. Like Simon Jeffes' music, Arthur's shows the influence of folk music and minimalism. There's less whimsy—a frequent element in Simon's work, and a difficult thing to pull off successfully unless you have the knack.

The Imperfect Sea contains mainly new compositions, along with "Now Nothing (Rock Music)" a version of the piece originally by Simon Jeffes with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and covers of electronic works by Simian Mobile Disco ("Wheels within Wheels" from 2015) and Kraftwerk ("Franz Schubert" from 1977). This does represent a change in focus, towards ambience and the rhythms of dance music (but using strictly acoustic instruments). "Cantorum" features a long violin melody over a repetitive string pattern (which would not sound out of place in a Steve Reich piece).

"Half Certainty" takes a similar approach, this time featuring a folk-like accordion tune over percolating percussion. "Control 1 (Interlude)" goes full ambient, a slow drone-like soundscape not unlike Brian Eno's classic album Music For Airports. "Rescue" makes a grand statement using minimal means, strings building to an insistent repetitive arpeggio while an epic long line snakes out over the top.

This is a lovely collection of music. Maybe a bit more "serious" in tone than previous Penguin Cafe albums, it presents a gentle, small-scale minimalism, songlike and melodic.

Track Listing: Ricercar; Cantorum; Control 1 (Interlude); Franz Schubert; Half Certainty; Protection; Rescue; Now Nothing (Rock Music); Wheels Within Wheels.

Personnel: Arthur Jeffes: piano (1,2,3,6,7,8,9), percussion (1,6,9), electric bass guitar (7), dulcitone (4,5,9), tape block (5), Fender Rhodes (5,6), violin (3), celeste (4,9), rock (3,8), melodica (5), Khono acoustic guitar (6), harmonium (3,4,7); Andy Waterworth: double bass (1,2,4,6), electric bass guitar (4,7); Neil Codling: Khono acoustic guitar (6), ukelele (6,9), kalimba (4); Des Murphy: ukelele (1,4,9), celeste (2,7), tape block (5); Tom Chichester Clark: cuatro (1,6,7,9); Peter Radcliffe: percussion (1,2,6,9), shruti (3); Cass Browne: percussion (1,2,7,9); Oli Langford: violin (1,2,6,7), viola (7); Rebecca Waterworth: cello (2,3,4,7), salt bowl percussion (4); Vincent Greene: viola (1,2,4,6,7,9); Darren Berry: violin (2,7), percussion (7,9); City of Prague Philharmonic: additional string recordings (7,9); Composed by Arthur Jeffes (7, 9) and Oli Langford (7); Guy Protheroe: arranger, musical director and conductor.

Title: The Imperfect Sea | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Erased Tapes Records Ltd.

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