I’ve been a fan of so-called ambient music ever since Brian Eno coined the term in 1976. And while ambient music has come to mean a multitude of things of the past few decades it is generally associated as a sort of quiet minimalism. In 1987 Editions E.G. Records released a compilation of their artists who were associated with the growing instrumental electronic music movement, many of which were associated with ambient music. This electronic music compilation included Brian Eno, Roger Eno(his brother), Harold Budd, Michael Brook, Bill Bruford, Patrick Moraz, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, John Hassell, Robert Fripp, Laraaji, Phil Manzanera and, last but not least, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. This compilation was titled ANGELS IN THE ARCHITECTURE and had extensive liner notes explaining and detailing what ambient music involved. This was my first exposure to the Penguin Cafe Orchestra (which used electronic and also folk instrumentation). I went on to collect all their albums based on the 2 tracks that were included on this compilation.
The song I want to focus on which I’ve revisited again is from the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s debut album, MUSIC FROM THE PENGUIN CAFE. It is titled (and perhaps would be a model for the lengthy titles of later post-rock masters…) The Sound Of Someone You Love Who’s Going Away And It Doesn’t Matter. Yes, that really is the title. This song has so many nuances and it expresses what Penguin Cafe Orchestra does best in this period; taking a melody and deconstructing it then reconstructing it again – a sort of compositional breathing.
This song starts out with a beautiful melody that totally draws the listener in and wraps the listener in a warm blanket of comfort and serenity. Then it slowly deconstructs and before-you-know-it the sound has become more like a wailing child. After that harsh realization has set-in the melody returns like a lullaby to comfort the “child” and soothe the emotions. Then for a second time it starts to deconstruct and it’s not as extreme but the awareness and expectation is greater as the distance grows. Because we know the suffering that can come, based on the first go-round. But, once again the melody returns. This third time the melody does not seem to return fully but just sort of lingers on, hints of deconstruction then fades away as if it just doesn’t matter any more. Life, relationship, loss and the life that remains. It’s what makes this music so “true”.
I hope you enjoy this wonderful music.
For more info:
And for the new Penguin Cafe – a project by Arthur Jeffes where he is continuing the work started by his father Simon Jeffes with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra.
The featured image on this post is from a photographic series of mine titled Celluloid Impressions and features abstracted images created by photographing the moving image in cinema. This featured image is number 10 in the series.