Hidden Orchestra: Archipelago

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-- By Eric J. Lawrence, KCRW Music Librarian and DJ


Edinburgh-based Hidden Orchestra truly live up to their deceptively simple name.  They certainly betray orchestral tendencies, with a core of four musicians augmented by an army of guest artists playing instruments ranging from cello and clarinet to electro-harps and the Finnish zither-like instrument known as a kantele.  They have been touring with an orchestra-like ten-piece line-up for shows from Africa to Scandinavia.  And their wide-screen downtempo sound recalls another electro-jazz orchestral collective, the Cinematic Orchestra.  Not to mention the fact that their latest album, Archipelago, begins with an “Overture”!
But there is something “hidden” about their sound as well, something elusive and hard to define.  Their music is complex and dynamic enough to feel composed, yet there are definite jazz-like improvisations throughout.  Their dual-drummer line-up lends itself well to the kinds of rhythmic touchstones preferred by the club-going set, yet the spacious, organic, ambient nature of their songs seems best suited for settling into a comfortable chair and letting the music wash over you.  Songs like “Reminder” and “Fourth Wall” throb with a progressive, forward-looking spirit, while others, like “Spoken” and “Disquiet,” have elements that feel as if they had been unearthed from a time long ago.
Whatever Hidden Orchestra is, their sophomore release is a listening experience like none other, well served by being able to be savored in its entirety.
Archipelago will be available to stream on demand from Monday, October 8 through October 15, 2012.