Based in Edinburgh, it’s about time that the Hidden Orchestra revelled themselves and their debut album is certainly a revelation that’s already caught the attention music insiders; another big album from the terrific Tru-Thoughts label.
Classically trained multi-instrumentalist, composer, music producer, sound designer and documentary radio show producer Joe Acheson is the man behind Hidden Orchestra and on his Night Walks he’s joined by Poppy Acheson (violin, viola, piano, Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes), Tim Lane (drums, trombone), Jamie Graham (drums), Su-a Lee (cello), Frazer Fifield (soprano saxophone) and Marcus Britton (French horn, cornet).
When they say, never judge a CD by the cover, the cover here is entitled ‘The Sound Of Mull’ and if you can imagine the Cinematic Orchestra (in their live band set up) doing a performance of ‘The Sound Of Mull’, the opening track ‘Antiphon’ would be pretty close to it. The single is ‘Footsteps’ with benefits from the addition of Phil Cardwell (trumpet), Nick Roth (alto saxophone) and FLY favourite, Julia Biel on vocals and it’s a fantastic study of dark, moody, atmospheric jazz groove as one step slowly follows another.
‘Dust’ is another standout track as synth meets strings meets drum march and bassoon (yep! Bassoon). Formerly known as the Joe Acheson Quartet, Hidden Quartet certainly deserve the additional members (and Scottish Arts Council funding – beware the ‘cut backs’) that’s made this album so good.
The two drummer set up might sound like overkill and I’m not sure it works throughout the album but more often than not it does; even though for geekishness, there’s usually around six different drum kits in each tune; count them – no thanks. For drama/tension its ‘The Windfall‘ with its intelligent broken jazz leanings (I think that’s the one for Jazz Chronicles on Saturday: see links below) and ‘Out Of Darkness’ is proper modern Hitchcock (but without the sound clich?©).
And whilst ‘Wandering’ is sounding a little Ninja Tune (nothing wrong with that as XX gets into full swing) I like Acheson’s own decription of the album, “the brooding reflections of a solitary walk through the still, restless night”. ‘Strange’ might make you want to run though as there’s dark undercurrents going on with Portico Quartet undertones.
It’s a shame that there’s no more Julia Biel on the album and as you can imagine, all the usual suspect are on this (especially in Scotland and FLY favourites Flomotion and Jelly Jazz). The intermittent birdsong samples are a bonus put on the closing track, ‘Undergrowth’, the birdsong is chopped into the essence of ‘The Birds’; more Hitchcock again, will have to get Jonny Trunk onto this one.
And on that theme, if you’re on tour in Scotland, Acheson has been the go-to support for acts such as Aim, Bonobo, Gilles Peterson, Jaga Jazzist, The Bays, Aaron Jerome and even Coolio! That may still be the case in the future but Hidden or not, these lots should get a top billing and it’s no surprise that they’ve recently been commissioned to provide a live original soundtrack to Powaqqatsi – the sequel to Godfrey Reggio/Francis Ford Coppola’s first film, Koyaanisqatsi (the original has a soundtrack by Philip Glass) – for a series of high profile showings in Edinburgh and Glasgow and a tour of the UK.
Hidden Orchestra, hide no more.
Hectic Mix nominations: ‘Footsteps’, ‘Dust’, ‘The Windfall’, ‘Wandering’, ‘Undergrowth’
Reviewed: Hidden Orchestra – Night Walks (Tru Thoughts) Cat. No. TRUCD222 Release date: 20th September except US on 28th September 2010
1. Antiphon (6:05)
2. Footsteps (3:48)
3. Dust (7:04)
4. Tired And Awake (5:30
5. The Windfall (5:02)
6. Out Of Nowhere (5:09)
7. Wandering (4:33)
8. Stammer (6:27)
9. Strange (6:26)
10. Undergrowth (6:06)
“This is excellent – will play on the radio show tonight. Looking forward to the live experience!” – Nick Luscombe (Flomation Radio)
“Really impressive…It’s quite rare that you find music which is both uncategorisable and immediately likeable” – 8/10 – Griff (Jelly Jazz)
Jazz Chronicles with Simon S, Martin Gordon and Gerry Hectic First Saturday of the month,
Jazz Chronicles Saturday, 2nd October at 3:00pm @ Sixty Million Postcards
Hitchcock’s Silents – www.barbican.org.uk
The Ring (U) with live piano accompaniment by Neil Brand
16:00 / With Hitchcock’s one and only original screenplay The Ring was declared ‘the most magnificent British film ever made’ by contemporary critics
3 Oct 10 / 16:00 / Cinema 1
Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail 20:00 / BBC Symphony Orchestra performing a new score by Neil Brand 31 Oct 10 / 20:00 / Barbican Hall