Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Penguin Cafe Orchestra's music is obviously strange, but how do you actually describe it to the uninitiated? Best not to try too hard, except to say it combines elements of minimalism, classical, African and South American music in a way that’s unique, charming and at times quite off the wall.

artist:
Penguin Cafe Orchestra

country of origin:
UK

style(s):
Folk, jazz, minimalism, world music, ambient

decades active:
70's - 90's

essential releases:

  • Broadcasting From Home (1984, Editions EG)
  • Signs Of Life (1988, Editions EG)
  • Concert Program (1995, Windham Hill)

Reviewed by Mike G

The legendary Editions EG label is best known for releasing Brian Eno's pioneering series of ambient albums, but a look at all the other releases that appeared during the label's heyday in the 70's and 80's reveals a catalogue so diverse and idiosyncratic as to defy any one categorisation.

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra is a case in point. To describe the late Simon Jeffes’ delightful one-of-a-kind ensemble as weird would be a bit like calling James Brown soulful. The music is obviously strange, but how do you actually describe it to the uninitiated? Best not to try too hard, except to say it combines elements of minimalism, classical, African and South American music in a way that’s unique, charming and at times quite off the wall. Broadcasting From Home (1984) and Signs Of Life (1988) have a higher melody count than the band's other albums and are recommended starting points. The excellent live album Concert Program (1995) proved to be the final new recording from the band, preceding Jeffes' untimely death in 1997.

 

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