Handfuls of Night Penguin Cafe
- 1Winter Sun03:58
- 5At the Top of the Hill, They Stood...05:40
- 6Pythagoras on the Line Again05:50
- 7The Life of an Emperor04:56
- 8Gentoo Origin05:32
- 9Midnight Sun04:07
Info for Handfuls of Night
Using gut-stringed violins, viola, cello, bass, percussion, upright and grand pianos, synthesiser, harmonium and more, Arthur Jeffes and his cohorts have crafted a vivid series of panoramic sonic landscapes, that are as rich in cerebral poignancy as they are in emotional depth.
Bookended by the atmospheric ambient piano pieces ‘Winter Sun’ and ‘Midnight Sun’, the album traverses glacial minimalism with ease, combining their signature contemporary classical panoramas, such as the melancholic yet upbeat lead track ‘At the Top of the Hill, They Stood...’ and the colossal cinematic piece ‘Chapter’, with the crystalline folktronica on ‘Pythagorus on the Line Again’ — a re-visiting and continuation of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s 1993 Union Cafe song on the principles of harmonics.
Handfuls of Night began life after Greenpeace commissioned Jeffes to write four pieces of music corresponding to four breeds of penguins, to help raise awareness for the endangered Antarctic seas. A fundraising evening at EartH in Hackney followed, where Penguin Cafe premiered the four songs named after their feathered counterparts to a sold out audience; the rousing contemporary folk inflected ‘Chinstrap’, the mournful and minimalistic ‘Adelie’, stoic and rhythmic ‘The Life of an Emperor’ and the wistful, string-laden ‘Gentoo Origin’.
“This record started with a core of pieces I wrote specifically about penguins in the Antarctic for a project with Greenpeace in autumn 2018. There are four native Antarctic penguin species – each with their own individual characteristics and natures. I carried on from there to envisage a whole anthropomorphised world, where these penguins had narratives and adventures that we soundtracked”, says Jeffes. But both the album and Penguin Cafe as a project have origins that reach further back:
“In 2005 I was asked to join an expedition re-creating Scott’s last Antarctic trip in 1911 for the BBC, using the same Edwardian equipment. I’m no explorer but I was keen, especially as there’s a family link – Scott was married to my great grandmother before she married my great grandfather.
Antarctica by this stage being a protected environment, we swapped to the Arctic circle where we spent 3 months on the Greenland ice sheet, first dog-sledding and then man-hauling just short of 1000 km at 10,000 feet, across ice fields and glaciers.
I had lots of time to ponder my life back home. It was then that I decided to get my Master of Music degree and focus on composing music, and also then that I realised that even in the most remote silent places, music can still be a huge part of one’s internal world and imagination. Whilst on the expedition. I spent days playing things back in my head and also writing new things, which I would then try and write down at the end of the day.”
Handfuls of Night’s tones, textures and melodies evoke otherworldly expanses, which at different junctures are either foreboding, awe inspiring or peaceful. There’s subtly morphing rhythmic repetition throughout, somewhere between minimalism, krautrock and the piano-cascades of label peer Lubomyr Melnyk. Jeffes creates a kinetic, circling motion, which drives the album forward in the form of a musical trip that mirrors the physical journey it was inspired by.
“There is a sense of place representing creativity, where endless space and emptiness – albeit with an underlying sense of beauty and timelessness – is a perfect context for creating something” (Arthur Jeffes)
Penguin Cafe “My father, Simon Jeffes, was in the south of France in 1972-73, where he got terrible food poisoning from some bad shellfish and spent 3 or 4 days with a terrible fever. During this, he had very vivid waking dream – a nightmare vision of the near future – where everyone lived in big concrete blocks and spent their lives looking into screens. There was a big camera in the corner of everyone’s room, an eye looking down at them. In one room there was a couple making love lovelessly, while in another there was a musician sat at a vast array of equipment but with headphones on so there was no actual music in the room. This was a very disconnected de-humanising world that people had made for themselves…
However you could reject that and look further afield, and if you went down this dusty road you would eventually find a ramshackle old building with noise and light pouring out into the dark. It’s a place you just fundamentally want to go into, and this is the Penguin Cafe. There are long tables and everyone sits together, and it’s very cheerfully chaotic. In the back there is always a band playing music that you are sure you’ve heard somewhere but you have no idea where – and that is the Penguin Cafe Orchestra – they play this music.
When my dad woke up he decided that he would write the music that would be played by the band from his dream, and so with that as a criteria he then wrote for the next 25 years and that is the world that we now also inhabit…” (Arthur Jeffes, BBC London, February 8th 2014)
Penguin Cafe was founded by Arthur Jeffes in 2009, bringing together a talented and disparate group of musicians from the likes of Suede, Gorillaz and Razorlight, initially to perform his father Simon Jeffes’ legacy of world renowned Penguin Cafe Orchestra music, ten years after his untimely death in 1997.
Arthur, a talented composer in his own right, quickly began to create new and unique genre-defying music, with the spellbinding philosophy of the Penguin Cafe always in his mind.
Arthur utilizes many different instruments and influences including elements of African, Venezuelan, Brazilian, Bluegrass, Classical, Avant-Garde & Minimalist music, using a variety of instruments from strings, pianos, harmoniums, slide guitars, cuatros, kalimbas, experimental sound loops, mathematical notations and more.
To date, Arthur’s Penguin Cafe has released two acclaimed albums of fresh, innovative and beautiful music that have achieved the seemingly impossible feat of creating something new and different and still exciting the worldwide fan base of original PCO followers.
The new album ‘The Imperfect Sea’, a collection of dance records made on real instruments, is due for release May 5th 2017 accompanied by a special show at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, followed by more live dates across UK, USA, Japan and Europe throughout 2017.
Arthur William Phoenix Young Jeffes born 21 July 1978, London is an English composer, producer, musician and arctic explorer. He is the founder and frontman of the Penguin Cafe and is one half of the band Sundog. Other work includes composing film scores and most recently producing Sam Lee’s new album out in 2015.
Jeffes was born in London to the artist Emily Young and musician and composer, Simon Jeffes. Jeffes’s interest in experimental music was recognised by his father when he took a hammer to the keys of his father’s piano. While both of his parents nurtured his musicality he was encouraged to base any career on a strong academic background. He read Archaeology and Anthropology at Trinity College, Cambridge.
In 2007, Jeffes brought together original members of the PCO for a set of memorial concerts to mark ten years since his father’s death. Encouraged by the public’s response to the concerts, Jeffes decided that keeping his father’s music alive and adding to the mythology behind the band was a worthwhile endeavour. He founded the Penguin Cafe with a brand new line-up, including Cass Browne of Gorillaz, Neil Codling of Suede, Oli Langford of Florence and the Machine and Darren Berry of Razorlight. They have released two albums, A Matter of Life… (2008) and The Red Book (2014).
In 2012, Jeffes was commissioned by the artist Nelly Ben-Hayoun to write several pieces for the NASA Kepler Project to be played by the International Space Orchestra. The pieces “1420” and “Aurora” were beamed into Space in 2013. “1420” was inspired by the WOW! Signal.
2017 sees Arthur releasing the new Penguin Cafe album with extensive touring, alongside animation and dance projects.
This album contains no booklet.