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The Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Music From The Penguin Cafe CD (album) cover


The Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Eclectic Prog

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3 stars This first PCO album is great. the style could be a mixture of jazz, Experimental Rock, Rock in Opposition and something of eclectic music. I love this band and this album since I saw the sleeve, always have been interesting for the progressive rock new proposals and this band was the case. Can you imagine the penguins-mans? Well, I think is very funny but you realize that this is a conceptual band. I recommend PIGTAIL that is an atmospheric song very smooth and you can dream and imagine a lot of things with this one, and The Sound Of Someone You Love Who's Going Away And It Doesn't Matter. Simon Jeffes was an excelent musician and the leader of PCO who unfortunately died in 1997.

Report this review (#395963)
Posted Monday, February 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Musical projects come together in strange ways and inspiration emanates from just as many bizarre encounters in life but amongst one of the stranger bands with an even stranger origin is the hard to classify PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA which was conjured up when the founder Simon Jeffes was on vacation in the south of France in 1972-73 and got food poisoning from rancid shellfish. He spent several days in a delirious fever and had visions or nightmares rather of a future where everyone lived in big concrete buildings and spent their lives gazing into screens with cameras in everyone's rooms spying on them. In this same vision there were other choices and down a dusty road there was an alternative reality where an old building offered a refuge from the George Orwellian had finally taken over completely. The unique sanctuary space was called the PENGUIN CAFE and after that disillusive experience Jeffes would create the ORCHESTRA part of the equation to provide entertainment for all the desperate souls trying to escape the cookie cutter approach of musical composition.

Many of these visions stemmed from the fact that Jeffes was not only disenchanted with the rigidity of the classical music world but also sought refuge from the ostensive limitations of the popular rock universe. He became extremely attracted to various ethnic musical sources as well as the spirit and immediacy of folk music and began this new band with cellist Helen Liebmann to create a bizarre blend of modern classical music fused with instrumental folk, psychedelia (including electronica) and avant-pop. After finding a couple more musicians with Steve Nye adding electric piano and Gavyn Wright providing the violin, Jeffes spent the next few years constructing compositions for his new style of music and which caught the attention of Brian Eno who released the first album MUSIC FROM THE PENGUIN CAFE on his Obscure record label which depicts the scenes of a PENGUIN and human visitor with a mask on who was evidently attempting to escape that Big Brother dystopia that the world had become, a scene that reprises throughout the band's discography.

While PENGUIN CAFE ORCHESTRA seems to be primarily based in an ethnic and sometimes gypsy folk type of sound, it really ventures into many different musical arenas. While the first track "Penguin Cafe Single" sounds as if it's the theme song for the journey into the musical refuge that finds its way around a cello and violin based pop melody with excursions into folk and psychedelic territory, the true gem follows immediately with the seven piece suite "Zopf" which adds the additional musical contributions of Neil Rennie on ukelele and Emily Young providing the only vocal performances on the album. This multilayered suite takes a journey into an eclectic musical ride that begins with a melodic mellow rock and ska piece and continues to create an ever stranger soundscape as it ventures into avant-folk, lugubrious violin-drenched modern classical, an avant-prog type vocal sequence titled "Milk," a traditional sounding avant-opera, a "La Bamba" type of Latin rhythm and ends in a slow dreamy psychedelic build up of hypnotic electronic sounds that become more and more discordant with atonal counterpoints and an ominous atmosphere that sounds like something the electronic band Coil would delve into.

The following three tracks are quite "normal" sounding after the wild ride of "Zopf" ending the album with a more lighthearted chamber folk type of sound. The band would garner enough attention to score a supporting gig for Kraftwerk in 1976 and despite never really becoming a household name has remained somewhat of a cult anomaly favorite in the underground music world. A strange album this is indeed because every time you think you can pigeonhole it into some sort of specific genre it adds some sort of contradictory elements that take you somewhere you've never been before. MUSIC FROM THE PENGUIN CAFE does very much evoke the strange conditions in which the inspiration emanated from. It has a dreamy psychedelic quality to it with a fuzzy notion of what reality should be with rhythms and cadences that sound somewhat familiar but so very different from anything else around them. The album never really gets aggressive and remains firmly chilled out never turning the heat up above simmer but what it achieves is creating a surreal folky chamber music pot of quirkiness. A very interesting folk based album with the exquisite "Zopf" suite being the cream of the crop.

Report this review (#1726100)
Posted Wednesday, May 24, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Multi-instrumentalist Simon Jeffes is joined by a collection of guests on eclectic backing instruments for this weird, occasionally folk-tinged slice of abstract avant-garde art-muzak. Presenting chamber music with no apparent connection to any pre-existing musical tradition, in retrospect (thanks in part to the Penguin Cafe's early championing by Brian Eno) we can see this as a sort of mellow, more acoustically-oriented cousin to the sort of ambient pop that Eno and Brand X cooked up on Another Green World. Minimalistic, yes, but never boring, the Penguin Cafe flock are always doing something interesting which sounds like little before or since. Followers of the more abstract jazz, folk, or pop tendencies will likely find it worth their time.
Report this review (#1915807)
Posted Friday, April 20, 2018 | Review Permalink

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