Cinematic soundscapes & strings, layered to perfection
Edinburgh-based Hidden Orchestra combine two live drummers, organic samples and dubby basslines to make cinematic, emotive, percussive music. Resplendent with layers of intense soundscapes, it takes audiences on a deep and truly original sonic journey containing elements of jazz, classical, drum’n’bass, rock and hip hop, moulded into a coherent whole.
The driving force behind the band is the acute artistic vision of Joe Acheson, a classically trained multi-instrumentalist, composer, music producer, sound designer and producer/presenter of radio documentaries for stations including BBC Radio 3 and 1Xtra. The other core band members are pianist Poppy Ackroyd and drummers Tim Lane and Jamie Graham. (Ackroyd and Lane are also classically trained, and Graham has been performing professionally as a drummer since he was 13.) The band play with two drum kits on stage, not for the gimmick, but because their input is needed to play all the layers of beats in Acheson’s studio production (“If anything, we could actually use another one or two” – Acheson). The drummers are often used as the “frontman”, set up next to each other at the front of the stage, as they always provide a great spectacle.
Debut album “Night Walks”, released on Tru Thoughts in September 2010, was met with critical acclaim (including BBC Radio 1 Introducing’s “Album of the Month” and iDJ’s top albums of 2010; radio play from BBC R3’s Late Junction, Laurent Garnier, FIP, RTS, NME, Radio 1 Prague and many more worldwide) and sparked a genuine and organic buzz among music fans, with a huge demand to experience the music in a live setting. A deluxe vinyl edition of the album was released in January 2011 on cult German label Denovali Records, and after selling out had to be re-pressed for a second time.
The album was part-funded by the Scottish Arts Council, and features a selection of distinguished
Scottish jazz/folk/classical guest musicians. An intense and rewarding listening experience, the record encompasses the energy and production techniques of studio-produced beats, but replacing synths and drum machines with natural/acoustic sounds and instruments for an emotionally potent style. Built on contrasts – experimental without losing accessibility, electronic and acoustic, complex and simple, dark and energetic whilst intricate and calm – there is a sense of journey and progression, and, in bandleader Joe Acheson’s words, “the brooding reflections of a solitary walk through the still, restless night”.
Hidden Orchestra have a very eclectic fanbase, which could be born from the fact that the emphasis is on being experimental and accessible at the same time, creating music based on feeling and energy, rather than image or fashion. Impossible to pigeonhole, the band have previously won the guitar/indie/rock band-dominated T-Break competition to play at T in the Park, while simultaneously being listed by Radio Scotland in the A-Z of the greatest Scottish jazz artists of all time. In addition to their own headline gigs, Hidden Orchestra have supported acts including Aim, Bonobo, Gilles Peterson, Jaga Jazzist, Craig Armstrong, The Bays (…and, ahem, Coolio). Their beautifully-crafted, explosive live show, where the core quartet is augmented with visuals, cello and brass, has cemented their reputation as one the UK’s most unique and watchable up-coming outfits.
The band’s online presence has been an important factor in attracting attention from around the
world for the album and the live shows. Especially a strong live video (over 175k hits on youtube)
from summer 2011, which a lot of people discovered following Joe’s extremely popular mixtapes. Two elaborate studio mixtapes were distributed for free online, and feature lots of exclusive original material, reworkings of well-known tunes, an eclectic mix of genres, and plenty of spoken word and sound design. The first was awarded #11 in the Mixcloud charts of 2010, and the second picked up over 10k downloads from ParisDJs in its first fortnight.
The band is founded on Acheson’s exceptional musical upbringing and career as an established composer, music producer and radio documentary maker (recently nominated for “Best Feature” at the Sony Awards 2011, as presenter/producer/composer of BBC World Service documentary Sound of Snow and Ice).
Second album ‘Archipelago’, released during October 2012, sees Acheson continuing to explore and develop many themes that emerged on their debut, while adding new ideas, guest players and found sounds; to name a few, listen out for tap-dancing, bagpipe drones, and Acheson stomping in snow and ice. New instruments contributing to the many layers of ‘Archipelago’ include the musical saw of multi-skilled cellist Su-a Lee (heard to spine-tingling, sci-fi effect on “Vorka”); clarsach and electro-harp from Scottish folk musician Mary MacMaster; clarinet care of Czech musician/composer Floex; and Phil Cardwell’s uniquely versatile trumpet tones. In addition, you hear a range of kantele and zithers which Acheson found and recorded at a school for the blind in Finland, while on location for a radio documentary.
‘Archipelago’ was preceded by the “Vorka”/“Spoken” single which premiered on The Line of Best Fit and Wax Poetics and gained heavy tastemaker support including Stuart Maconie, Nemone and Huey Morgan on BBC 6Music, Ally McCrae (BBC R1), John Kennedy (XFM), Monocle 24, The Selector and more.
Since their debut, the band have toured heavily throughout Europe, including three mammoth headline European tours that encompassed over 20 countries and has seen them build a devoted audience in many territories. They have also made an impact on the festival circuit, with high profile performances on the West Holts Stage (formerly Jazz World Stage) at Glastonbury, at North Sea Jazz (Holland), Copenhagen Jazz (Denmark), Outlook Festival (Croatia), Pohoda Festival (Slovakia), Pori Jazz (Finland) a few of the highlights among many.