Playlist – Daniel Patrick Cohen

Daniel Patrick Cohen. Picture credit Alexandra Făgărășan

Arcana is delighted to hand our playlist baton over to Daniel Patrick Cohen, whose fascinating new album We Deliver is on our own playlist for review shortly.

Cohen, a Londoner living in Romania, has a particular love for film music and hip hop, and wrote a substantial score for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Pleasure Garden, as part of the British Film Institute’s Rescue The Hitchcock 9 enterprise, where composers were invited to score the director’s silent films.

With We Deliver, Cohen writes a love letter to hip hop in the form of a 32-track album featuring 67 musicians, described as a lo-fi work entirely made up of throwaway-type tracks that a hip hop producer might have written.

His playlist, then, contains 15 such ‘throwaway’ tracks, including inspired examples from the likes of Daft Punk, J Dilla, Radiohead, Björk and even Mozart alongside five of his own compositions blended in to reveal the loose connections. He elaborated for us:

“The idea is that these tracks were moments of magic which I imagine captured the mood on a day so perfectly that they resisted being developed and expanded. I think it’s worth elaborating that there’s nothing “lazy” about them; on the contrary, one could spend a lifetime waiting for these moments!”

On record: Wooden Elephant: Landscapes, Knives & Glue – Radiohead’s Kid A Recycled

wooden-elephant

Wooden Elephant [Aiofe Ní Bhriain, Hulda Jónsdóttir (violins), Ian Anderson (viola, arrangements), Stefan Hadjiev (cello), Nikolai Matthews (double bass)

Backlash Music [59’29”]

Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

The quintet Wooden Elephant releases its take on Radiohead’s seminal album Kid A, second in its reworking of game-changing albums that commenced in 2016 with Björk’s Homogenic then continued in 2018 with Beyoncé’s Lemonade, on the enterprising Backlash Music label.

What’s the music like?

When it appeared in autumn 2000, Kid A not only redefined what even as forward-thinking a rock band as Radiohead was capable of, but also topped the mainstream charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Thus, an album as artistically radical as it is commercially successful such as violist Ian Anderson has made it his mission to reassess. Each of the musicians plays a range of sundry instruments (what improviser Jamie Muir would have deemed ‘allsorts’), yet they are extensions to the already inclusive string sound on which these ‘arrangements’ are based.

After the gradual merging into focus then rhythmic and melodic clarifying of Everything in Its Right Place, the subdued moodiness of Kid A is afforded a ruminative treatment which reveals an unsuspected poise in the melodic line and whimsical twist to the accompaniment. The rhythmic obsessiveness of The National Anthem gives rise to an invigorating textural workout that spills over into mayhem towards the close (who needs an orchestra?) – and to which the video’s Jarmusch-like interplay of drink-stirrers with woodland inhabitants offers an intriguing complement. A siren-song reverb from wine glasses then segues into How to Disappear Completely whose brooding eloquence and lilting gait make it a highlight now as then, while Treefingers is no less arresting given its ethereal emergence and timbral finesse.

The propulsive syncopation of Optimistic effects a vibrant and soulful – if, in this context, relatively straightforward – response, with the hymnic preamble then stealthy integrating of rhythmic and melodic elements across the course of In Limbo satisfying in its immediacy. Nor is there anything predictable about Idioteque with its plaintive unfolding set against a pulsating undertow that drives towards a febrile close, out of which the lucid melodic profile of Morning Bell is maintained from its tentative arrival to its sudden disintegration. It duly remains for the aching pathos of Motion Picture Soundtrack to provide a heartfelt ending; here with its (unintended?) postlude, which is often tracked as Untitled on digital versions of the original album, serenely dissolving into a melange of ricocheting chordal patterns.

Does it all work?

Almost always. Something that was never quite a rock album has provided ideal material for an ensemble that is not quite a string quintet, Wooden Elephant taking full advantage of this stretching of musical and conceptual boundaries to come up with what is an absorbing listen in its own right. Just occasionally the ensemble’s interplay evokes those bluesy harmonies of Quintette de Hot Club de France, but this serves to throw the more experimental aspects of its approach into provocative relief. Nor does the vividly defined sound leave anything to chance.

Is it recommended?

It is. This is an ideal opportunity to reconsider a key album from the turn of the Millennium, finely interpreted by a sympathetic and resourceful ensemble. Wooden Elephant is giving a performance in Potsdam this November, with hopefully further hearings to follow in the UK.

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Further information

For more on Wooden Elephant, click here, and for more on Backlash Music, click here

On Record – Orchestra of the Swan: Timelapse (Signum Classics)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Timelapse is a concept album from the Orchestra of the Swan, conductor Bruce O’Neil and its artistic director David Le Page. Together they have created a sequence of works from as far back as the 17th century or as recently as last year, the concept illustrating how music can transcend time. In Le Page’s summary, Rameau and Vivaldi can be seen as fresh contemporaries of Thomas Adès or Radiohead, while the roots to songs from David Bowie and The Smiths are seen to lie in the music of Mahler and Vaughan Williams.

What’s the music like?

Timelapse hangs together as an hour of music perfectly suited to either end of the day. Its sequence is an imaginative one, and it hangs together in the way Le Page indicates thanks to the quality of his arrangements. There are no syrupy cover versions here; instead a song like Bowie’s Heroes is reduced to its bare elements. In the orchestra’s hands it becomes a contemplation on the original, a free improvisation from the flickering string ensemble complemented by icy droplets of melody from the harp.

The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out has similar qualities, though the substitution of an oboe for Morrissey’s voice, while beautifully played, is arguably less effective. Radiohead’s Pyramid Song fares better.

The ‘older’ music, as Le Page suggests, dovetails beautifully. François Couperin’s Les Barricades Mystérieuses and a sequence from Rameau’s Les Boreades work really well, while the addition of Trish Clowes’ saxophone to Vivaldi’s music for Sleep 1 is a nice touch, her recitative sensitively done.

The cold, spidery figurations of Schubert’s Sleep Softly – a meditation on his Serenade by Le Page – cut to a robust, bluesy solo, while the Couperin segues rather nicely to Steve Reich’s Duet and Thomas Adès O Albion, a chamber-music alternative to the Enigma Variations’ Nimrod, drawn from his Arcadia string quartet.

At the close of the set, Errollyn Wallen’s Chorale contains both soothing textures and an impassioned, wordless plea, while the last of Górecki’s Three Pieces in Old Style has a moving simplicity harking back over centuries, illustrating Le Page’s point rather nicely.

Does it all work?

Everything fits together nicely, the overall mood one of contemplation in the half light. I found the phrasing on Grieg’s Air a bit rushed at times, but that is personal taste of course – and when you’ve got round the idea of an oboe replacing Morrissey’s voice on There Is A Light That Never Goes Out you’ll agree that it works rather well.

Is it recommended?

Enthusiastically. There is a great need at the moment for music to soothe the fevered brow, and Timelapse is an effective playlist fulfilling that function every time you listen to it.

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You can buy the album from the Signum Records website

Switched on – Fabric presents Maribou State (Fabric)

What’s the story?

Fabric may have called time on their two long-running compilation series, each of which declared on 100 not out, but they are still producing anthologies centering on a particular artist. Some, like this one from the duo Maribou State, are still concerned with reproducing the feel of a night out to the club.

There’s a subtle difference this time around, however, as the mix hones in on the sweet spot where the feelings build, Maribou State heading out on the journey to their own set with spirits and expectations high. This most pleasant of states is enhanced by field recordings from previous journeys into the club, complementing the choice of 21 tracks.

What’s the music like?

Dreamy. There is pure escapism at work here, right from the moment the strains of Stelvio Cipriani’s Mary’s Theme ease the listener into the evening. Over the next few tracks Maribou State establish a relaxed tempo and a penchant for a catchy hook or two, the relatively short excerpts blending together and fed through a warm fuzz. That slightly out of focus sound peaks through the heady sounds of Kutiman’s Line 5 and carries us through a soft-hearted cover of Ain’t No Stopping Us Now from Risco Connection, nicely done.

This is a junction point in the mix, after which it gets more percussive while retaining the fuzzy sheen round the outside. This works especially well when tracks like Oriyin’s Roll The Dice, with its nagging vocal hook, and Botany’s excellent Wednesday Night Oct 28 2015 are involved. The latter, a Western Vinyl release, pans out nicely, losing its beats as disjointed choral voices circle the listener in a heady cocktail.

Two-thirds of the way through the mix the tracks get longer, and we arrive at the squelchy funk of Shire Tea’s Hackney Birdwatch, as English as it sounds. This is the cue for two new tracks from Maribou State themselves, the urgent Mother and the skittish beats of Strange Habits, featuring Yussef Dayes. These frame another exclusive, their pulsing remix of Radiohead’s Reckoner, with some squiggly synthesizers to complement Thom Yorke’s floated vocal. Earlier on in the mix we get the duo channelled through the pseudonym North Downs, the easy and rather lovely Settle Down.

The mix wraps up with another Shire Tea track, the quick stepping Gentleman’s Whistle Club, which steps into the cooled down piano vibes of Hailu Mergia, and the improvisatory Yefkir Engurguro. This disappears into the middle distance.

Does it all work?

Most of the time. The mix drifts a little towards the middle, in danger of settling too far into the background, but thankfully the duo have an ace or a hook up their sleeves to bring it forward again. It’s good to hear a quirk or two in the productions, and refreshing to note the relative absence of big names.

Is it recommended?

Yes. For much of this warming hour and a quarter there is a strong sunshine vibe, and although Maribou State are be recreating a night at Fabric they could just as easily be providing the soundtrack for a particularly warm poolside scene in the Mediterranean. How we could do with that now!

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