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The first album from the latest installment of the Penguin Cafe with Simon Jeffes' son, Arthur. Limited print-run.
“Penguin Cafe continues to occupy a unique place in music: nothing else has ever sounded quite like it. Eccentric, charming, accommodating, surprising, seductive, warm, reliable, modest and unforgettable: it's a true friend” ∼ Brian Eno, February 2010
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra were a uniquely innovative, exploratory set of musicians who enjoyed a cherished period from 1972 to 1997, and continue to hold a special place in many hearts. Their inception was as original, imaginative and idiosyncratic as the music they created…
During the summer of 1972 the English composer Simon Jeffes had a dream, experienced during a severe bout of food poisoning in the South of France
"I was laying in bed delirious, sort of hallucinating for about 24 hours. I had this one vision in my mind of a place that was like a modern hotel, with all these rooms made of concrete. There was an electronic eye which scanned everything. In one room you had a couple that were making love, but lovelessly. In another room there was somebody just looking at himself in the mirror, just obsessed with himself. In another room there was a musician with a bank of synthesizers, wearing headphones, and there was no sound.
This was a very terrible, bleak place. Everybody was taken up with self-interested activity which kept them looped in on themselves. It wasn't like they were prisoners, they were all active, but only within themselves. And that kept them from being a problem or a threat to the cold order represented by the eye.
Next day when I felt better, I went to the beach. As I sat there a poem came to me. It began ‘I am the proprietor of the Penguin Cafe. I will tell you things at random.’”
The music of the Penguin Cafe, Simon broadly regarded as "a very big yes to the survival of the heart in a time when the heart is under attack from the forces of coldness, darkness and repression." When forced to describe it more precisely, he called his music "imaginary folklore" and "modern semi-acoustic chamber music." He very much liked the comment of a Japanese girl who attended a Penguin concert in Japan and who said afterwards that the music sounded strange, because it was as if she'd heard it a long time ago.
To realize this somewhat fevered dream, Simon utilized many different instruments and orchestrations including elements of African, Venezuelan, Brazilian, Classical & Minimalist music, using a variety of instruments from strings, pianos, harmoniums, slide guitars, cuatros, kalimbas, experimental sound loops, mathematical notations and more.
The last official Penguin Cafe Orchestra release was Concert Program recorded 1995, a document of the touring set they were playing at the time...
Sadly in 1997 Jeffes passed away, marking the closure of that period of Penguin Cafe’s history. However, in 2007, to mark ten years since Simon's death, his son Arthur Jeffes, re-assembled the original musicians to perform a last run of concerts, spanning three nights at London’s Union Chapel, in tribute to both his father and the music that he created. The reception to these concerts was an affirmation that the music held a vibrant life of its own and subsequently Arthur felt that it was appropriate to embark on a more extensive revisiting….
Commissioning a fresh set of musicians ranging from luminaries from The Royal College of Music to notable performers and members from bands such as Suede, Gorillaz, Delakota and Razorlight, the newly envisioned incarnation of the Penguin Cafe undertook a series of performances under the name Music from the Penguin Cafe.
The first of these would be invitation from The Teenage Cancer Trust to perform at The Royal Albert Hall, to be filmed for a future charitable release.
Following this, over the next six months, Music from The Penguin Cafe appeared at various festivals, venues and Arts events over the summer of 2009, initiated by a debut at The Manchester Royal College of Music. This was to be followed by appearances at Port Eliot Literary Festival, Glastonbury, Bestival, The Big Chill, Womad, Edinburgh Arts Festival, the Snape Proms, and the arts festivals of Galway and Milan. Each performance was met with glowing receptions, and heart-warming reviews.
It was during this period that Arthur Jeffes had also began to incorporate his own new material, universally received as natural yet inspired extensions to his own father’s work, thus marking the beginning of a new episode in the Penguin Cafe's rich and turbulent history...
By the end of this run the band was newly invigorated, and the music now seasoned into a fresh, confident and redefined style. With this in mind, it was then decided to bolster the Royal Albert Hall filmed footage with a live studio recording of the set performed over the summer shows. These recordings book-ended this first chapter in the new band's history, mirroring the last record made by the original Penguin Cafe band.
On the 9th day, of the 9th month of 2009, at 9.00am, these 9 musicians walked in to Air Edel Studios and over the next 9 hours recorded 21 tracks live. So much for numerology….
The CD of tracks recorded that day have now been coupled with a DVD of the filmed recitals from The Royal Albert Hall, to be released as a single package under the title 'Music From The Penguin Cafe - Live at the Royal Albert Hall', with all proceeds from this release are going to The Teenage Cancer Trust.
Moreover as everyone involved in this project generously donated their time and talents for free, from performing, filming, editing, recording, mixing, artwork, mastering and manufacturing, when you pay £10 (plus vat, sadly) for the album, Teenage Cancer Trust receives £10.
ARTHUR JEFFES “We're immensely proud of the music on this record, the performances therein, and being able to donate it all to Teenage Cancer Trust. This whole process has proved to be the first steps on this new journey for the Penguin Cafe and 2010 will see both a new album and tour.”
Inspired by the both the process & reception of this endeavor and the events of the previous summer, it would seem that the doors to the Penguin Cafe have opened once more.