A little while ago a musical hero of mine, Martin “Youth” Glover released a list. Youth is a legendary, versatile, creative musician with Killing Joke and other bands as well as a sought after producer and remixer, a record label owner, a creator of abstract drawings and now curator of the Space Mountain Festival. You can see why I continue to be amazed by this guy. His list of Top 10 Albums To Get High To surprised me as only 50% of those records were in my collection. While getting high is not my thing (just my personal preference) I had to discover the music being suggested by such an influential source. I have already posted about The Damned’s release Damned Damned Damned, Alice Coltrane’s album Journey In Satchindananda and Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Upsetters’ record Super Ape and today we have Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Broadcasting From Home.
PCO was created by Simon Jeffs in 1974 and the band remained active until his death in 1997. Eventually Jeffs’ son formed a similar band called Penguin Orchestra that performs his fathers music as well as new compositions. Broadcasting From Home is the band’s third or fourth album, depending on how you count their 1983 self titled mini-album. Released in 1984 Broadcasting contains arguably their most well known song, “Music For A Found Harmonium”. This track was composed on a pump organ that Jeffs found discarded in an alleyway while visiting Japan. The song has been widely covered, used in movies and advertising and was even remixed by The Orb.,
Immediately upon listening I am struck by the familiar yet bizarre sound of their music. It is obvious they have had a profound influence on all manner of instrumental composition, especially soundtrack scoring. The immediate connection I can make is that of Philip Glass as Broadcasting From Home is full of minimalist cycling and looping sounds that do not build or dissipate in a manner traditional music has trained us to expect them to do. Penguin Cafe Orchestra seems to be equal parts classical, folk, new age, avant garde experimental and jazz, a truly beautiful combination of sources and influences with no one particular style winning out. The end result is a recording that while so different from the immediate world of pop and everyday music is so readily accessible and enjoyable it almost betrays its own esthetic as challenging and groundbreaking composition. What a revelation this little list from Youth has been. I am excited to see what the final installment brings.