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Old 10-19-2019, 06:56 AM   #758 (permalink)
innerspaceboy
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Default Penguin Cafe – Handfuls of Night (2019)



Handfuls of Night, released October 4th is the highly-anticipated follow-up to Penguin Cafe's much-applauded 2017 album, The Imperfect Sea. The new album was conceived in honor of Greenpeace's commissioning Jeffes to compose four pieces of music corresponding to four breeds of penguins in an effort to raise environmental awareness for the endangered Antarctic seas. In 2005 Jeffes joined an expedition re-creating Scott's last Antarctic trip in 1911 for the BBC.

Erasedtapes.com notes:

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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.
Steven Johnson wrote the following about Handfuls of Night for MusicOMH:

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At The Top Of The Hill, They Stood may initially just seem to be a simple, slight run of piano arpeggios with some melodica laid on top but over time becomes infused with emotion and depth. In short, it’s one of their most impeccable moments to date.

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The closing stages see them further settle comfortably into the surroundings of their Erased Tapes label. With strings and piano outdoing any quirks or idiosyncrasies of previous albums they’ve never sounded closer to the likes of Ólafur Arnalds, and Nils Frahm. Yet, there’s still a distinct Penguin Cafe magic to Handfuls Of Night. The music here won’t come as a surprise to people familiar with their increasingly tightly managed aesthetic but it still provides a wonderfully calming sanctuary to temporarily get lost in.
But it was Michael Sumsion's captivating description of the album's music at vinylchapters.com which truly captures the elegance of this record. Sumsion beautifully writes:

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Penguin Café represent a disparate collective of musicians operating within the cracks between pop, classical, ambient and folk.

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The group’s idiosyncratic raggle-taggle music has always evaded easy categorisation, roaming from exuberant folk and pop styles to electro-acoustic minimalism and African textures.

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Bookended by the serene, plaintive ambience of Winter Sun and Midnight Sun, Handfuls of Night consistently demonstrates the band’s affinity for subverting conventional definitions of post-classical soundscape music and disarms the listener with its puckish wit, crystal-clear sensitivity and warmth of tone. They deftly condense folksy and filmic themes whilst conjuring shards of throbbing krautrock, sweeping, Philip Glass-inflected neo-minimalism and Michael Nyman-style piano arpeggios, most notably on the wistful At the Top of the Hill, They Stood...

The influence of somnolent folktronica is audible on Chinstrap and Pythagorus on the Line Again, but the dominant mode is that of a euphoric, homely chamber music which induces the welling of tear ducts, a plangent wash of strings, bending motifs and waves of succulent sadness.

Handfuls of Night succeeds as an enveloping haze of robust intensity and sombre tones, as keening melodies soar with orchestral precision and heart-rending execution. Even if it conjures nothing nocturnal for you, it represents some of the band’s most satisfying carvings of catharsis, exquisitely pitched between accessibility and depth, melody and dissonance.
Pensive and wistful, their latest effort is markedly more cinematic than their previous recordings, and its minimal stylings are befitting of what listeners have come to expect from the Erased Tapes label. Penguin Cafe consistently offers a charming and seamless blend of minimalism, folk, and classical musics, masterfully combining string arrangements, harmonium, melodica, and Glassian piano. Handfuls is a mature and engaging soundscape for active or passive listening, and a wonderful score to usher in the autumn.

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