Fiona Brice – Postcards From

Folder

  • Genre: Classical
  • Produced by: Fiona Brice and Julian Simmons
  • Released: 2015 on Bella Union

If you’re wondering who Fiona Brice is, you’re not alone. I had to admit, I had never heard of her until Berlin alerted me to her work as composer, touring musician and multi-instrumentalist for the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Midlake and Gorillaz, to name a few. And also, as the cool “sidewoman of Placebo”, which comes as a timely reminder that there’s still lots of music for me to discover. Besides, Brice’s description of Postcards From whetted my curiosity further. In this interview, she portrays the songs as auditory manifestations of her mood in a certain place at a particular time, as a result of her travels to unfamiliar territory while working for other musicians. These unfamiliar territories have turned up in the album as track names, the labels to these “moods”, and also as an appeal to the listener’s wanderlust: to fling their doors wide open, and embark on a mental trip with her.

Berlin opens the album with the silvery keening of the violins, and the voluptuous drone of the cello. Every note hangs heavy in the air, swollen with the surge of passion and wistfulness. Paris is the complete opposite of Berlin, lost instead in the luminous reverie of the dainty piano, with the occasional sigh from the violins. Unfortunately, the album tends towards one too many similar-sounding songs, at a similarly pedestrian pace. Fortunately, St.Petersburg provides some unexpected drama, the stabbing strings adding to an ominous feel in the music. You can almost feel the forbidding mood of the former Communist empire breathing down your neck.

On the whole, the album is still pleasingly decent to warrant at least a few more listens, although others may get frustrated with the benign nature of the record. Oh, me? I’m just saving this for another rainy day in the car. It sounds like the perfect soundtrack to daydream to.

 

 

 

 

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Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music From The Penguin Cafe

penguin

  • Artist: Penguin Cafe Orchestra
  • Released: 1976 on Obscure Records
  • Genre: Instrumental Folk, Contemporary Classical

Look at the cover…it’s kinda cute, eh? Some guy with an enormous bird mask, possibly a magpie headpiece, is regaling a large emperor penguin with some tasty bits of gossip, I presume. We’re going to politely ignore the fact that the guy’s pubes are a wee bit visible.

However, we’re not going to ignore the fact that this was released under Brian Eno‘s experimental record label, which was also painstakingly exclusive – there are only 10 records released under Obscure. Music From The Penguin Cafe is titled number 7 on Obscure’s catalogue list.

Music From The Penguin Cafe has a child-like wonder. The cheekiness of the music is a joy to listen to. As a listener, you find yourself getting sucked into a playful experimentation – but along the way the record is underscored by sorrow and poignance.

Penguin Cafe Single reminds me of reading an Alexander McCall Smith novel. The opening has a kitschy feel, almost like a vintage BBC children’s show opening theme. Playful keyboards provide the syncopated rhythm to the melodramatic violins, until it gets to the middle of the song – where the strings start stuttering and a ghostly, wide-eyed wonder, created by bells (something akin to Pink Floyd‘s creepy psychedelia on Bike) hangs over the song. Then the bass starts up, the violins realize there’s nothing to be afraid of, and the song is on its feet once more – like a kid running gleefully across the grass, with chocolate-smeared fingers. Giles Farnaby’s Dream is a dizzy dance around the apple tree, the galloping rhythm provided by the folk-esque guitar and supplemented with that Olde English Folk Feel by the harpischord and violin-fiddling.

The Sound Of Someone You Love is heartfelt poignance, duly delivered with some gorgeous folk guitar. I can’t help but feel myself melt into a gooey mess when the violins come together with the double bass.

Let me post a link before I start weeping: here’s Penguin Cafe Single!

 

 

 

 

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