Published Oct 04, 2019On their fourth album, Penguin Cafe venture further from the musical lineage of Penguin Cafe Orchestra than on previous releases. Composer Arthur Jeffes deemphasizes some of the musical quirks inherited from his father's avant-folk legend with Handfuls of Night. Rhythmically oppositional tonal loops still find their way in ("Pythagoras on the Line Again") but here, Jeffes has created a very serene and minimal album, by his standards.
Even at its most active on tracks like "Chinstrap" — which sounds readymade to score an epic pastoral fantasy videogame — and "Chapter" — a piece that evokes POC a bit more strongly, featuring unexpectedly melodic turns within Philip Glass-like lattice works of minutely varied repetition — the songs of Handfuls of Night are efficient and contained in their displays of exuberance.
Much of the album fits more into the modern compositional mould of mixing ambient production elements with European classical tendencies, in line with contemporaries like Max Richter and Ben Lukas Boysen. There is a quiet and elegant cinematic feel to these pieces, with instantly memorable and hauntingly familiar themes presented front and centre.
There's nothing especially innovative or unique about Handfuls of Night, but what it does, it does very well and should find great resonance with fans and filmmakers seeking some palpable sonic gravitas to help sell an emotional scene. (Erased Tapes)