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PENGUIN CAFE

Penguin Cafe

Rain Before Seven…

    Penguin Cafe return with new album Rain Before Seven.. A sense of optimism infuses Penguin Cafe’s fifth studio album, not the braggadocious, overconfident kind, but more a blithe, self-effacing optimism in keeping with the national character. Even when all signs point to the contrary, it operates within the certainty that things are going to be alright. Probably.

    The title comes from an old weather proverb with the rhyming prognostication — fine before eleven — hinting at a happy ending, irrespective of the science: “I found it in a book and I'd never heard it before,” says Arthur Jeffes, leader of Penguin Cafe. “It has faintly optimistic overtones and I quite like it. It's fallen out of usage recently but it does describe English weather patterns coming in off the Atlantic.”

    From the widescreen reverie of opener ‘Welcome to London’ with its cheeky nod to Morricone to ‘Goldfinch Yodel’, the self-described “Maypole banger” at the denouement, there’s a welcome sense of sanguinity, always with an undercurrent of exotic rhythmic exuberance. Playfulness pervades, with a titular nod to A Matter of Life… from 2011, the last album title that concluded with an ellipsis. That Penguin Cafe debut is the bridge between the legendary Penguin Cafe Orchestra, led by Arthur’s father Simon Jeffes, and the muchloved descendent, led by Arthur.

    “Stylistically it's really satisfying to get back to playful rhythms and instruments,” says the younger Jeffes, who kept the group’s debut from 12 years ago in mind when writing the new album. “Certainly when starting out, I became aware that we’d stopped using quite a few of the textures that had been there at the beginning—and it was certainly there in my dad's earlier stuff. So there's a lot of balafon and textures from completely different parts of the world, musically and geographically: ukuleles, cuatros and melodicas that you can hear.”

    Encouraged by co-producer Robert Raths, the rhythmic elements of Rain Before Seven… have never been more to the fore and, at times, even hint at the electronic. ‘Find Your Feet’, for instance, is underpinned with more than just a pulse. Mixed by Tom Chichester-Clark, it brings to the musical melange what Arthur describes as a “near electronic feel”. He adds, excitedly: “There are elements of fun here which we haven't really done with the last three records.” Another ebullient highlight is ‘In Re Budd’, dedicated to the late ambient godfather Harold Budd, who Arthur discovered had died on the day he’d been writing the celebratory ear worm with a deceptively tricky syncopation. Played on an upright piano with some “prepared” felt to accentuate the bounce, Jeffes feels a track with an Afro Cuban Cafe vibe would appeal to Budd’s contrariness.

    And then there’s the aforementioned ‘Welcome to London’, which got its name as the world started to open up and people were finally allowed to fly again. Jeffes, who touched down on home soil for the first time in a while, was struck by its cinematic John Barry-esque qualities as he took a taxi into West London from Heathrow with the mise-en-scène of the opulent twilight. The optimism is there, and maybe a little caustic irony too. “Robert [Raths] added a layer of nuance which I think is interesting, because many Londoners are not from London originally. So you pitch up to London as an outsider, and you haven't really found your tribe yet, you get mugged… and then ‘Welcome to London’ takes on a more sarcastic resonance.”

    TRACK LISTING

    Side A:
    1 Welcome To London
    2 Temporary Shelter From The Storm
    3 In Re Budd
    4 Second Variety
    5 Galahad
    Side B:
    6 Might Be Something
    7 No One Really Leaves…
    8 Find Your Feet
    9 Lamborghini 754
    10 Goldfinch Yodel

    Penguin Cafe

    A Matter Of Life... 2021

      Penguin Cafe are back with a lovingly produced 10th anniversary reissue of their debut album, titled A Matter of Life… 2021. Besides being completely remastered and pressed on vinyl for the very first time, the record also features a brand new 2021 recording of lead single Harry Piers, a song commemorating Arthur Jeffes’ late father and Penguin Cafe Orchestra founder Simon Jeffes.

      “I originally wrote Harry Piers to play at my dad‘s memorial service 24 years ago, and I played it at the end of pretty much every gig (and soundcheck) we’ve done since, so I’ve probably played it hundreds if not thousands of times since we originally released A Matter of Life... So when we decided to reissue the album, Robert and I both felt it would be fun to record an up-to-date version of this song, because it has changed over time and it continues to evolve. So while this is still very much the same tune, I think it has a lot more nuance and detail that reflect the years that have passed since 2011,” Arthur explains.

      A Matter of Life… 2021 is a chance for a classic example of the beauty that’s found in collaboration to reach fresh ears, and an opportunity to breathe new life into fan favourites. The album, performed by a mix of personalities — including Neil Codling of Suede and, on percussion, Cass Browne of Gorillaz — incorporates the aesthetics of the original PCO, seasoned into a confident and redefined style, maintaining that quintessentially English sound, but adding a fresh direction and a sense that they are evolving into something new and very much their own.

      Arthur says “it’s been really lovely to come back to these old friends — and with this re-issue we’ll be bringing them all out to play live again. Now four albums on, and with our new home at Erased Tapes, it makes a lot of sense for us to go back and pull this record out and brush it off for today”.

      The cover artwork also received an update in the shape of a beautiful photograph taken by the UK photographer and long-time collaborator Alex Kozobolis, who was sent to visit Arthur in his second home in Tuscany. Raths’ concept for this was to not only reenact the original painting by Emily Young, but to express the generational change by putting Arthur and his daughter in place of the little boy and the emperor penguin figure that suggest father and son.


      TRACK LISTING

      1. That, Not That
      2. Landau
      3. Sundog
      4. The Fox And The Leopard
      5. Finland
      6. Pale Peach Jukebox
      7. Harry Piers 2021
      8. Two Beans Shaker
      9. From A Blue Temple
      10. Ghost In The Pond
      11. Coriolis

      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’.

      “This record started with a core of pieces I wrote specifically about penguins in the Antarctic for a project with Greenpeace in autumn 2018. There are four native Antarctic penguin species – each with their own individual characteristics and natures. I carried on from there to envisage a whole anthropomorphised world, where these penguins had narratives and adventures that we soundtracked”, says Jeffes. But both the album and Penguin Cafe as a project have origins that reach further back:

      “In 2005 I was asked to join an expedition re-creating Scott’s last Antarctic trip in 1911 for the BBC, using the same Edwardian equipment. I’m no explorer but I was keen, especially as there’s a family link – Scott was married to my great grandmother before she married my great grandfather. Antarctica by this stage being a protected environment, we swapped to the Arctic circle where we spent 3 months on the Greenland ice sheet, first dog-sledding and then man-hauling just short of 1000 km at 10,000 feet, across ice fields and glaciers. I had lots of time to ponder my life back home. It was then that I decided to get my Master of Music degree and focus on composing music, and also then that I realised that even in the most remote silent places, music can still be a huge part of one’s internal world and imagination. Whilst on the expedition. I spent days playing things back in my head and also writing new things, which I would then try and write down at the end of the day.”

      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.

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: A beautiful and climactic collection of exuberant orchestration, soaring strings and twinkling piano. Smoothly segueing between brittle, icy ambience and warm, sun-drenched audio euphoria. Stunning.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Winter Sun
      2. Chinstrap
      3. Chapter
      4. Adelie
      5. At The Top Of The Hill, They Stood...
      6. Pythagoras On The Line Again
      7. The Life Of An Emperor
      8. Gentoo Origin
      9. Midnight Sun

      Penguin Cafe Orchestra

      Union Cafe

        Erased Tapes has the privilege of reissuing Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s last studio album Union Cafe — out December 1st 2017 to coincide with the 20th Anniversary of Simon Jeffes’ passing in 1997.

        "I was 17 when Simon Jeffes passed away and sadly I never got the chance to meet him whilst he was still walking this earth with his infamous Penguin Cafe Orchestra. There are some parallels between our lives that could simply be rationalised by the fact that anyone that loves music travels a lot. But from what I know about Simon we both seem to believe in something beyond that, something more magical that cannot be explained by numbers alone. For example, the fact that Kyoto had both a special impact on his and my life as the city where he found the harmonium on which he’d write his possibly most famous piece of music and the one where I found the love of my life. Or the fact that we both got severely poisoned by eating bad seafood in the south of France. Although admittedly I can’t say that my bed-bound days of hallucinations come anywhere close to the grandeur of his recurring vision; one of a George Orwell type of desolate future with people living in concrete buildings, hearing without listening, making love and music without touching. It was only the other day that I heard Simon’s son Arthur tell this story for a BBC documentary on the Erased Tapes tenth anniversary festivities inside one of London’s largest brutalist buildings, the Southbank Centre, and in a time when making music and love over the internet is seen as something perfectly normal. I wasn’t aware until then that our shared near-death experience in France propelled Simon to dream up a place called the Penguin Cafe, where penguins serve the Japanese soul food that is Okonomiyaki and wine that makes you feel lighter, float even — a colourful, magical place far away from those big grey buildings where everyone is neutral, numb and anonymous. And so he’d form the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and dedicate his life to writing the joyful music the band would play in that cafe.

        The first song from Union Cafe that I’d unknowingly heard was Nothing Really Blue, performed live by Arthur and his successor band Penguin Cafe at the Barbican in summer 2016 — another icon in brutalist architecture. He simply announced it as “another one of my dad’s”, and left me wondering all night about which record it was from. Considering myself a decent collector of their music, I thought I’d heard it all. Well, I clearly hadn’t. Another mystery? I forgot to ask when I first met Arthur that night, but it marked the start of our relationship as kindred spirits. For everyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of witnessing it yet, hearing Arthur play his father’s songs with so much joy and gusto truly feels like meeting old friends. And it’s the most beautiful reminder of how everything in this world is connected. It’s one thing to accept growth and decay as a constant passing on of energy and knowledge, from one generation to the next. But I really can’t imagine the kind of love that Simon must feel if only he had the chance to see his son right now, performing his songs in front of thousands of people on both sides of the planet each night.

        It wasn’t until summer 2017, a whole year later, that Arthur shared his father’s last studio recordings with me. Union Cafe is a record that somehow missed me, simply because it wasn’t available on vinyl like the other records were that I had gathered over the years. I couldn't help but feel privileged for the chance to discover another original PCO album. And so I put my headphones on and lay down at the foot of the small lake in Victoria Park to listen to this box of treasures. And as with all of Simon’s works, a whole world appeared in front of my closed eyelids — a world full of love and wonder, that manages to put tears in my eyes, shivers down my spine and a smile on my face. Scherzo And Trio would become the song that manages to brighten up my days, no matter how grey London sometimes gets. Organum would become the piece that Arthur played at my wedding. Cage Dead with its déjà vu-like character would become the theme song to a series of live sessions with artists from all around the world performing in the Sound Gallery, our new home on 174 Victoria Park Road. Songs like Silver Star Of Bologna and Kora Kora, just like all the classic PCO songs, would feel familiar, though I’d never heard them before. Lie Back And Think Of England sounded like the work of a seasoned composer and yet unfamiliar at the same time — it made me wonder if Simon was planning a new adventure for his orchestra. Lastly, Passing Through would remind me that having a hidden track on your album was very popular with bands in the 90s, but finishing your album with the sound of water dripping out of a sink, slowly forming a musical pattern within all the chaos before the record suddenly ends, surely must be the most perfect way to say goodbye.

        Dear Simon. Even though we never met, strangely I too feel like I lost a friend on December 11, 1997. And I like to think it’s simply down to the music that you left us, the songs that have become some of the best companions one could ask for, reminding us that there’s an alternative to the prison we’ve built ourselves. And that with every song I get one step closer to the magical world you’ve created, and that Arthur continues to create. I like to think that if I keep listening, maybe one day we will all unite in the Penguin Cafe, so I can tell you all about the wonderful son you and Emily have raised. And so I can thank you for all the love you’ve given this world.”– Robert Raths.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. Scherzo And Trio
        2. Lifeboat (Lovers Rock)
        3. Nothing Really Blue
        4. Cage Dead
        5. Vega
        6. Yodel 3
        7. Organum
        8. Another One From Porlock
        9. Thorn Tree Wind
        10. Silver Star Of Bologna
        11. Discover America
        12. Pythagoras On The Line
        13. Kora Kora
        14. Lie Back And Think Of England
        15. Red Shorts
        16. Passing Through

        Penguin Cafe Orchestra

        Concert Program

          Concert Program, originally released in 1995, was the eighth PCO album in 19 years. It is both a live album, recorded in a studio setting, and a compilation, reprising selections from the two decades of Penguin Cafe Orchestra music, from early 'Air a Danser' and 'Music for a Found Harmonium' through 'Cage Dead', from the later released recording, Union Cafe. It includes many of the band’s most iconic tracks, Perpetuum Mobile, Telephone and Rubber Band …

          Penguin Cafe

          A Matter Of Life

            Penguin Cafe’s debut album, ‘A Matter of Life’, was released in February 2011 on the Editions Penguin Cafe label.

            The Penguin Cafe was Simon Jeffes’ dream-inspired creative universe - a wonderful and strange musical world that fell largely silent when he died aged 49 in 1997. Now, thirteen years after his death, his son Arthur is revisiting the Penguin Cafe – playing his father’s music and adding new pieces of his own.

            Arthur Jeffes has assembled a young band, a mix of personalities not unlike those that made up the original Penguin Cafe Orchestra, incorporating the music of the PCO, seasoned into a confident and redefined style, maintaining that quintessentially English sound but adding fresh material and a sense that they are evolving into something new and very much their own. The band is a loose collection of talent, including Neil Codling of Suede and, on percussion, Cass Browne of Gorillaz.

            ‘A Matter of Life’ is largely new material, including Harry Piers, which Arthur wrote for his father’s memorial service, and includes a guest appearance on ‘Landau’ by Kathryn Tickell on Northumbrian pipes.

            Penguin Cafe & Cornelius

            Umbrella EP

              Worlds collide as Penguin Cafe and Japanese producer Cornelius' mutual admiration for one another led to them joining forces for this four-track 'Umbrella EP'. The pair reworked and reimagined existing tracks of their own, alongside two new Penguin Cafe songs.

              Penguin Cafe was founded by Arthur Jeffes in 2009, bringing together a diverse and disparate group of musicians from the likes of Suede, Gorillaz and Razorlight, initially to perform his father Simon Jeffes’ legacy of world renowned Penguin Cafe Orchestra music, ten years after his untimely death in 1997. Arthur, a composer in his own right, quickly began to create new and unique genre-defying music, with the spellbinding philosophy of the Penguin Cafe always in his mind.

              The project has evolved into something at the hands of Arthur who utilises many different instruments and influences including elements of African, Venezuelan, Brazilian, bluegrass, classical, avant-garde and minimalist music — using a variety of instruments from strings, pianos, harmoniums, slide guitars, cuatros, kalimbas, experimental sound loops, mathematical notations and more. To date, the new Penguin Cafe have released two albums of fresh, innovative and beautiful music, developing from the traditional folk and jazz heritage Penguin Cafe Orchestra is known for into another realm of blissful ambience and dance music, recreated using strictly acoustic elements. 

              TRACK LISTING

              Solaris (Cornelius Mix)
              Birdwatching At Inner Forest
              (Penguin Cafe Mix)
              Close Encounter
              The Track Of The Dull Sun

              The iconic Penguin Cafe join the Erased Tapes family and open a brand new chapter to their unique world with new album The Imperfect Sea.

              A penguin stands in the middle of a scorching desert, far away from its natural habitat. This mirrors composer Arthur Jeffes’ journey and exploration into a new musical territory. Penguin Cafe have evolved into something of their own at the hands of Arthur who started the band in 2009 with the continuation and homage to his father’s legacy, to the late Simon Jeffes’ Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Now, their upcoming album echoes reminiscent sounds that embrace the new.

              The album title refers to a saying by his father that “we wade in a sea of imperfections…”, reflecting upon the idea that beauty can be found amongst the chaos. “If there is a narrative to the album it’s coming to the acceptance of the imperfections in all aspects of life; moreover, the recognition that these imperfections and tiny randomnesses are in fact what make up the best parts”, Arthur explains. This has also been highlighted by the striking cover artwork designed by FELD under the art direction of label founder Robert Raths, resembling a lone figure adapting to and accepting its surrounding environment.

              Predominantly self-composed, the new album also features covers of electronic works by Simian Mobile Disco and Kraftwerk, along with a re-working of Simon's 'Now Nothing'. Arthur has developed from the traditional folk and jazz heritage Penguin Cafe Orchestra is known for into another realm of blissful ambience and dance music, recreated using strictly acoustic elements.

              “For this album I wanted to effect a departure from where we’d been up to now. The idea was to create a musical world that would feel familiar to an audience more used to dance records but stay true to our own values. So we replaced electronic layers with real instruments: pads with real string sections, synths with heavily-effected pianos, and atmospheric analogue drones with real feedback loops ringing through a stone and a piano soundboard.”


              STAFF COMMENTS

              Barry says: Keeping the upbeat and intricate, but decidedly pastoral vibes of Penguin Cafe Orchestra (a different, but both figuratively and literally related band) intact whilst having a different focal point was never going to be an easy task for Arthur Jeffes, but on 'The Imperfect Sea' we get the perfect combination. Erased Tapes are, in the most part a modern-classical label (there are a good number of exceptions), and there are definitely nods to that in “Control 1” and “Rescue”, but with it come brilliant folky outings like opener “Ricercar” and the wildly dreamy staccato-string haze of “Franz Schubert”. With their name being as it is, Penguin Cafe are never going to escape the considerable shadow of PCO, but with a history as rich as theirs, and with Jeffes' ability to put his own twist on their already established sound, why would you? A stunningly rich, and hugely rewarding journey.

              TRACK LISTING

              1. Ricercar
              2. Cantorum
              3. Control 1 (Interlude)
              4. Franz Schubert
              5. Half Certainty
              6. Protection
              7. Rescue
              8. Now Nothing (Rock Music)
              9. Wheels Within Wheels


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