Tag Archive: arthur jeffes


Prog Review 233 – The Red Book – Penguin Cafe

You can get all your favourite PCO albums here: http://amzn.to/1j06cRA

And so I take a look at the second album produced by Penguin Cafe: The Next Generation

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra Primer

You can get all your favourite PCO albums here: http://amzn.to/1j06cRA

And so I cast my brain over the back catalogue of darlings of New Age music, the Penguin Cafe Orchestra lead by the late, great Simon Jeffes

Prog Review 46: Insofar / Side 1 – Sundog

I am a big fan of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and its new incarnation helmed by Arthur Jeffes, son of the late Simon Jeffes who was the original proprietor of the PCO. Sundog is an off-shoot project from Arthur Jeffes and I had the good fortune to see them play last year. This short EP won’t be for everyone but it fuses new age with the avant garde and gives a strong nod to the works of Glass and Nyman.

For more details and samples, head over to the iTunes page: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/insofar-side-1/id506083045

For glorious 720p HD quality

Title Music:
“Stinkhorn” by Darren Lock

Background Music:
“Open Field”

All music has been written and recorded by Darren Lock and is used by permission because I am that Darren Lock who wrote and recorded this music. Ha ha ha ha!

To buy an EP containing some music:
http://music.darrenlock.com/album/the-stinkhorn-ep

Or visit my iTunes page:
http://bit.ly/m53fg8

Or my own music page:
http://music.darrenlock.com

Concert Review: Sundog at Purcell Rooms, QEH London 21-10-11

This is the ticket to Sundog

Look at this 'ere ticket...

Sundog is an offshoot project from the Penguin Cafe helmed by Arthur Jeffes on piano and dulcitone and Oli Langton on violin. I had the pleasure of witnessing their London performance of their inaugural tour. The music is very similar to that of the Penguin Cafe, however it is stripped back to just the piano and violin, so you really get to hear what is happening inside the music. This is music that challenges the listener to follow and presents jarring time signature and marries them with melodies and repetition. There are echoes of Michael Nyman and Philip Glass in some of the works as it is that kind of mathematical music.

The performance was a game of two halves, two forty-five minutes segments with a break in the middle for ice-cream – yes, that’s how rock and roll I am. I had never been to the Purcell Room before and this was a very intimate concert, probably the most intimate performance I had ever attended. We had front row seats, so I could stare up the performers’ trouser legs (joke) and if I put the palms of my hands either side of my face to block my peripheral vision and create a makeshift blinker, it was if Sundog were performing in my own living room.

There were new tunes mixed with Penguin Cafe (the reboot) songs taken from their “A Matter of Life…” album. There were also a couple of vintage Penguin Cafe Orchestra songs as well – Cutting Branches for a Temporary Shelter and Numbers 1-4 (part 2) or 1242. It was a great performance and it was very easily to get swept away with the metronomic quality of the music.

In this instance, I think my only complaint was that the concert was a little too long because I sensed that the energy from Arthur Jeffes began to flag towards the end of the concert. Talking of Arthur Jeffes, I am always impressed with his affable demeanour and the way he takes the time to explain the songs in his own, accessible way.

And here’s a short video:

CD Review: Penguin Café – A Matter of Life…

Penguin Café - A Matter of Life...

The new album from Arthur Jeffes, Penguin Café

I’ve written many words about my fondness for the original Penguin Café Orchestra and its proprietor, Simon Jeffes, and you might have already read my review of the recent concert by the revived, rebooted, Penguin Café helmed by son-of-Jeffes, Arthur. Well now there’s an album of new material written by Arthur Jeffes featuring this new configuration of musicians.

It’s a hard job to fill anyone’s footsteps, probably even harder to fill your father’s footsteps but “A Matter of Life..” is brave attempt at resurrecting his musical heritage. Before you even listen to the CD you have to commend his strength of character for even attempting such a feat. I mean, what if the record is a stinker? What if it is just a piss-poor shadow of the original Penguin Café music?

Thankfully, the answer to those questions is a resounding “No!”. There are some classic moments on the record where you forget that this is Jeffes Jr work and you kid yourself that the PCO are back in town, the opening track “That, Not That” and “Landau” are examples of the music just spiriting you away to the good old days and a are worth the price of admission alone.

And while it is a brave record, you can sense that there is a lot of nostalgia here, the tunes are looking back and not looking forward. A lot of the musical cues and ticks and styles are borrowed wholesale from Jeffes Snr (the “Fox and the Leopard”, for example). Is this a bad thing? Yes, if you are looking for a work of startling genius. No, if you accept the record and the project for what it is: remembering and reviving.

I must admit I’ve never experienced music or a record like this before. It feels right as a continuation, but the snickering cynic at the back of my mind asks: “Is this music genuine – does it come from a genuine place?” I don’t want to even try and answer that because I have already accepted the record and I can’t imagine my own children being remotely interested in the music I make, let alone setting out on a path to recreate it.

The bottom line is that if you are a Penguin Café Orchestra fan and you want the closest thing to bringing the band back from the dead and experiencing a new PCO album, then this is it. My only criticism is some of the later tracks feel a little underdeveloped and meandering, but the original band were guilty of this trait sometimes too.

It truly is a remarkable piece of work and my admiration for Arthur Jeffes continues. I look forward to seeing the band again in May.

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It is hard to believe, but it has been four and a half years since my last gig. My self-imposed exile meant that I have not been able to worship at the shrine for such a long time, so it was quite apt that such a musical banquet was served up to me last night.
I had been looking forward to the concert since it was announced because it was my first chance to see the Portico Quartet who I’ve admired since hearing their first album two years ago and it was also the first proper London outing for the Penguin Café, but more about them later.

The music of the Portico Quartet is straddles genres – the use of saxophone and upright bass puts the band firmly in the jazz camp, while the utilisation of the hang drum adds a new age/world music slant to their output. The band is purely instrumental and we were treated to performances from both their debut and follow-up albums, “Knee-Deep in the North Sea” and “Isla”.

The performance was truly mesmeric. The music, for me, transporting and expansive – showcasing the unique sound of the band. Tunes played included, “Lifemask” with its strange looping beginnings, “News from Verona”, “Line” and “Clipper” – there might have been others by my memory isn’t want it was and I don’t remember their tunes by name, just by familiarity.

I was surprised just how much use of looping there was by the band with both the saxophonist and drummer preparing and triggering loops, and sending ethereal noises into the sonic backdrop. The drummer also appeared to be responsible for some live mixing on the set as he often was seen scrambling to adjust his mixer whilst playing.

I thought it was a truly superb performance and I felt old and “over the hill” seeing these young fellows being so adept at their craft. The music was so engaging that by the end of the hour-long set, I felt emotionally drained and exhausted by the performance – in a good way, of course.

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After a short interlude, whilst road crew scurried around removing equipment and preparing the stage, the Penguin Café headed by Arthur Jeffes took the stage. What is the Penguin Café? It’s not the Penguin Café Orchestra, for that was a completely different beast. It is not a cover band. It’s not a reboot (although Arthur Jeffes coined that terminology during the set). It’s similar but different – like looking at the world through a new set of eyes, or listening to the Penguin’s albums with someone else’s ears.
The strength of goodwill and positive feeling washed upon the stage and it was a good night. I thought it took the band a few songs to hit their stride, but it didn’t matter, for this was a special night and a night I thought I’d never see happen. To imagine that I’d hear these songs again performed live was fantasy since the untimely death of Simon Jeffes and for his son to pick up the reins was an incredibly brave thing to do.

What to say? If you love the Penguin Café Orchesta, you will love this band. It just has to be. You will forgo the complaints that the guitar playing on “Dirt” isn’t as good, or that Arthur’s ukulele playing needs a little work and that there appears to be too many people on stage at once, because it’s not about that. It’s about celebration, for the concert was more than just a run-through of a few old songs, it felt like a celebration of the music and a way of preserving the musical legacy put-down by Simon Jeffes.
Arthur Jeffes is a personable young man with a deft line in rambling, humble stories and he does a grand job as band leader. The band itself is a sprawling mess of talent, with many of them dressed as if they’d just escaped from a Victorian lunatic asylum, which is kind of jarring when they first hit the stage. Of course, this is stage craft and very few bands these days try to attempt to engage with their audiences in this way.

All the old favourites were performed such as “Telephone and Rubber Band”, “Music for a Found Harmonium” and “Perpetuum Mobile” as well as new tracks from the freshly-released Arthur Jeffes-penned “A Matter of Life…” album.
I thought it was a truly wonderful evening of music and a rich feast for a cultural starved man as myself. It was good to be a part of it and one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever had and one I will remember for a long while.

And to be a total publicity whore, for those of you visiting via Google, feel free to check out my music at iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/darren-lock/id4151062