Monday, June 7, 2010

One Word: Penguin Café Orchestra Edition

Penguin Café Orchestra: Milk

Penguin Café Orchestra: Coronation


When the Penguin Café Orchestra released their more or less eponymous album, Music from the Penguin Café in 1976, the record stores were perplexed. The music was too discordant to be classical, too melodic to be avant-garde, folk wasn’t the word and neither was pop, or prog rock. The state of confusion was perhaps added to by the musicians including Simon Jeffes and Steve Nye whose careers crossed effortlessly between classical and rock. For years the album was hard to find precisely because retailers didn’t know which bin it went into. One sure place to find it was in that category useful for any music that defied labels; contemporary jazz.

More subversive than confronting, Music from the Penguin Café Orchestra is a deceptive album. Some tracks wash over without calling attention to themselves until you take the time to listen closely. Others set you up to sit in a comfortable chair only to whip it away. Emotionally it reminds me of having hangovers on a Sunday afternoon when I was still young enough to have done something incredibly stupid the night before and think melancholic self–reflection was enough to redeem me. With subsequent albums the Orchestra mellowed, by which I mean there were less surprises in the music. About this time it started to be categorized as ‘new age’ and was deemed acceptable for actual cafes, as though it were the perfect music to sip a latte to. That is both wrong and embarrassing

Guest post by John

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