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Full Version: NEW ALBUM: Penguin Café - Handfuls of Night
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PENGUIN CAFÉ ~ Handfuls of Night

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Arthur Jeffes was commissioned by Greenpeace to write pieces of music to call attention to several species of Penguin native to the Antarctic, and to highlight their potential plight relating to habitat changes. He’s long had a fascination for Antarctica and has a tenuous family connection to Scott. He’d also been invited to join an expedition to that icy continent for a BBC production intent on tracking Scott’s footsteps, but they relocated the shoot to Greenland in the end as Antarctica had by then become a protected environment.

Four penguin tracks named “Chinstrap”, “Adelie”, “The Life of an Emperor” and “Gentoo Origins” formed the basis for this new album and the vast ice sheets, empty landscapes and the history of exploration fueled his imagination for the remainder of what I feel is an inspired offering.

Jeffes employs much the same composition construct as in the past, using looping layers of sound, just less repetitively so than the previous album - I'm hearing a lot more texture and colour. Atmospheric and engaging with an almost fragile, crystalline quality at times, this is music to get lost in. Beautiful playing and arrangements, a delicate yet sure touch evoking the breath-catching snowy wilderness and the silence one might imagine (which is a interesting thing for music to do!), aside from the occasional creaks and moans of shifting ice and water, the slap of a tail, a waddle and bray, a distant piercing call.

The album is bookended by two mostly piano driven pieces, “Winter Sun” which is suitably pale, still and descriptive, setting the scene perfectly and quietly (even if I didn’t have any idea of the concept/setting, I believe it would speak to me of vast, open, icy spaces – love the synth which really enhances it, IMHO), and “Midnight Sun” which is a little warmer – gorgeous cascading notes - a celebratory epilogue.  

The second track kicks in with the cello and builds up in the aforementioned loops – it is an ode to the Chinstrap penguin and a little less serious than the opener while tempered by a deeper and sonorous midsection, as befitting these comical creatures who are also the favourite menu item of leopard seals and orcas. Clumsy on land they may all be, but penguins in the water are an elegant and streamlined sight to behold. Each breed is given its own special treatment, there are one or two cinematic tracks, sweeping yet full of subtle nuance, there is a nod to the late Simon Jeffes and the Penguin Café Orchestra in a reworking of “Pythagoras on the Line Again”, and as always the strings are simply wonderful throughout – I particularly noticed the double bass this time around.  It’s on the to purchase list. 

Here is that opener – “Winter Sun” -

“Gentoo Origin” -

And “The Life of an Emperor” –