Penguin Cafe was founded by Arthur Jeffes in 2009 as both a continuation of and homage to his father Simon Jeffes' original avant-pop band Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Distinct from the original ensemble, Penguin Cafe features no former members of PCO, but they perform some of their compositions, and play a similarly uncategorizable blend of folk, jazz, pop, and chamber music influences, occasionally using unconventional instrumentation. While Penguin Cafe's early releases largely stayed true to the established PCO style, the group expanded their sound with the electronic-influenced (yet largely acoustic) 2017 full-length The Imperfect Sea. Moved by a series of PCO reunion concerts that took place at London's Union Chapel ten years after his father's death in 1997, Jeffes formed his own band, known simply as Penguin Cafe. The lineup featured a number of notables like Neil Codling (Suede), Cass Browne (Gorillaz), Darren Berry (Razorlight), and Oli Langford (Florence + the Machine), alongside musicians from the Royal College of Music. The newly formed group released their first album in 2011 through their own independent label. A Matter of Life… was received warmly as being an almost perfect stylistic match for the Penguin Cafe Orchestra's sound; even so, Jeffes was very much a composer in his own right, and despite a desire to stay true to the music of his father's band, he was never constricted by it. Penguin Cafe's next record was inspired by a project that Jeffes worked on with the International Space Orchestra and NASA Ames. The project spawned the pieces "Aurora" and "1420," which were eventually beamed into space, and also marked the beginning of what would become The Red Book, released in 2014. The four-song EP Umbrella, a collaboration with Japanese artist Cornelius, appeared in 2015. The group continued to include an ever-revolving number of musicians, sometimes numbering up to ten at a time. On their third record, Jeffes took his cue from one of his father's sayings: "We wade in a sea of imperfections." 2017's The Imperfect Sea, although in the main self-composed, also features covers of Kraftwerk's "Franz Schubert," Simian Mobile Disco's "Wheels Within Wheels," and a reworking of Simon Jeffes' "Now Nothing." Penguin Cafe's fourth full-length, 2019's Handfuls of Night, was conceived after Greenpeace commissioned Jeffes to write four pieces of music about specific breeds of penguins. He then expanded this concept into an entire album, envisioned as a soundtrack to a world of anthropomorphic penguins.
© Bekki Bemrose /TiVo
© Bekki Bemrose /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 4, 2019 | Erased Tapes
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/Qobuz