Penguin Cafe. A matter of Life


The reviews for this album have mostly been a little patronising and mildly dismissive as if it is some form of PCO lite offering.

I beg to differ.

I am, almost literally, a lifelong PCO fan and have every track they ever recorded, from the experimental Zopf days on the Obscure record label right through their “heydays’ of the 1980’s when their unique musical sound appeared on every second commercial or BBC/C4 soundtrack (most notably I have to say in the Independent’s launch advertising campaign).  So Simon Jeffes’ death in 1987 hit me like a hammer blow.  Ten years later his son, Arthur, began the slow but steady cryogenic rebirth, or perhaps more accurately the creation of a clone with ideas of its own.  This has culminated in the release of this instant classic album, a matter of life, which is, to all intent and purpose, PCO’s 5th studio album.

It has more piano than PCO but other than that it’s broadly the same thing, and certainly cut from the same cloth.

Track 2 (Landau) feature Jeffes and Kathry Tickell on her trademark Northumbrian pipes and its delicious.  Harry Piers, another piano only track was played at Jeffes Sr’s memorial concert and it bears every trademark PCO motif you could ever imagine which is what makes it both a great epitaph for Simon Jeffes but perhaps also a catharsis for Arthur.

The Fox and the Leopard is a carbon copy of a previous PCO song but for me the absolute standout is the minor key classic, From a Blue Temple.

In Penguin Cafe’s second album I’d expect the music to be slightly less of a tribute and to explore more of their own ideas, maybe more of a development from From a Blue Temple; and given that members of Suede and Gorillaz make up the 10 strong ensemble I’m pretty sure there will be new areas aplenty to explore.

For now though, this is a welcome and delightful discovery that I will treasure and hopefully wear out the grooves as much as its four forebears.

Tinariwen – Aman Iman


Whoa.  Stop right there.  What the fuck is this?  I’ll tell you what it is – it’s a beast.  The most finely concieved, played and produced African album I have ever heard.

It is an absolutely stunning mashup of tribal rythm from Mali an extended family of Saharan nomads who are quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen or heard in your life.

Count yoursef blessed that you have stumbled upon this post because the track I have for you, the first from their third album, is an absolute stonewall classic.  This stuff takes your breath away and played back to back with The Very Best of Ethiopiques it shows the quality of music coming out of Northern Africa is nothing short of sublime

Please do yourself a favour.  Buy this record.  And Pick up The Very Best of Ethiopiques while you’re at it.

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The very best of Ethiopiques


Sometimes a record comes along that literally blows your mind.

This is it.

It’s a collection of the Ethiopian club music scene of Addis Ababa circa 1968 – 74. And it’s unique, hypnotic, sexy, trance-like because the rythms are so un-western.  Yet it adopts western influences of jazz and soul and meshes them with military precision (many of the artists are from the Ethiopian army bands) and African mystery.

It is actually, to die for.  OK, some tracks fail to quite mesh with my westernised ear – but not many.

Unquestionably my album of the year so far.

You can hear more (and read all about) here!

Needless to say, the kids hate it.