Hidden Orchestra: Reorchestrations
Though the name Hidden Orchestra suggests a multi-member ensemble, it's actually the solo studio project of multi-instrumentalist Joe Acheson. The UK-based composer isn't averse to working with others, however, as guest musicians are regularly brought on board for studio sessions and live dates. The latter typically features Acheson on bass and electronics accompanied by violinist Poppy Ackroyd and drummers Tim Lane and Jamie Graham, with trumpeter Phil Cardwell also sitting in. Given that it's (primarily) a collection of remixes, Reorchestrations is rather different in character from the albums Hidden Orchestra issued in 2010 and 2012, Night Walks and Archipelago (both on Tru Thoughts Records). Of the seven selections, one gives the impression of being an Hidden Orchestra original, while another is an unreleased track that reworks material by Ackroyd.
Whatever differences there are between the original artists, the material achieves an impressive degree of cohesiveness after it passes through Hidden Orchestra's remixing filter. The basic character of the original is preserved, but Acheson also isn't shy about boldly re-fashioning the material in Hidden Orchestra's image. Rather than stripping layers away, he beefs up the tracks, rendering them muscular by adding layers of acoustic drums and bass lines and fleshing them out with field recordings and other sounds (he's joined on some of the pieces by Graham, Lane, Ackroyd, and cellist Su-a Lee). The programmer's hand is evident at time, too, in those moments where the material is chopped and reconfigured.
The irrepressibly swinging treatment of Piano Interrupted's “Cross Hands” makes for a dynamic start, with Acheson bolstering the moody sparkle of the dramatic, piano-heavy original with high-energy drumming and acoustic bass lines. The moodiness of the opener carries over into Clarinet Factory's “5 Steps,” which strikes an effective balance between the woodwind playing of the Czech clarinet quartet and the relentless thrust of Acheson's beatsmithing. Clarinet also figures prominently in the Floex setting “Saturnin Fire and The Restless Ocean,” and those acquainted with Ackroyd's own recordings won't be surprised by the emphasis on strings in “Lyre Grounds” or the layers, percussive and otherwise, Acheson adds to extend the panoramic sweep of her original. The award for the album's most rambunctious and radical makeover goes to “Sleep Key,” originally authored by Project Mooncircle associate Long Arm (Russian producer Georgy Kotunov) and newly transformed into a mercurial firecracker teeming with drums, trumpet, sax, and vocal fragments.It might seem odd that an original track by Hidden Orchestra has been included when everything else is remixes, but the story behind “The Revival” clarifies its inclusion. As it turns out, the seed for Reorchestrations was planted when Acheson began remixing a track by Liverpool band Kinetic Fallacy only to see the group disband, leaving Acheson with a track that eventually became a Hidden Orchestra live encore staple as well as, fittingly, the final selection on this release. Though Reorchestrations is formally speaking a remix collection, one comes away from it with a clear impression of what Hidden Orchestra is all about, too, and certainly the robust attack witnessed on “The Revival” does much to help bring the group's persona into focus.