Hidden Orchestra – Still

• “Still” set to a picture of the housing album. Thanks to Tru Thoughts Records.

8.5 “Excellent Tripbeat from Scotland”

First out as a digital single in May, 2017, before settling down to live on the album “Dawn Chorus”, a month later.

A real classy affair this one, created by composer/producer Joe Acheson, whose finished works very much put me in mind of Amon Tobin and DJ Shadow. His “Hidden Orchestra” releases feature a wide variety of guest musicians from different musical backgrounds, recorded separately, and combined by Joe in his studio to create an ‘imaginary orchestra’ that doesn’t really exist. Dark orchestral textures are woven from field recordings, bass, and layers of drums and percussion.

Speaking with The Playground, Joe shed some light on his modus operandi:

Like Johannes Brahms and Brian Eno, I believe that when you are creating something original, you are really re-packaging everything you’ve ever heard, and there might be something new about the way you are putting it together – but the more you know about what has come before, the more you have to work with.

Part of the Hidden Orchestra formula has always been the idea of making electronic music by acoustic means – using only acoustics drums and instruments, and natural sounds – waterfalls and cellos instead of synthesizers and drum machines. Same with the genres – writing Classical music, but using the templates and structures of songwriting and beat production – verse/chorus/middle eight/breakdown/buildup/drop…

I started composing Classical music at a young age – my mother was a pianist, so I heard a lot of Debussy, Schubert and Albeniz, and I trained as a chorister – but there was rarely contemporary music of any kind playing at home. Choral music played a big part in shaping my appreciation for structured harmonies, clean and simple textures, calculated dissonance, and soaring melodic lines designed to bounce around enormous echoing acoustics.

At school I discovered more kinds of music, joining bands and messing around with music production software, whilst still playing in orchestras and singing in choirs.

When I first heard hip hop, I had never heard of sampling, I didn’t know much classic funk and jazz, and I assumed that the artists were writing, arranging and recording all of the parts themselves.

I later gained an appreciation for the art of sampling, through DJing and producing my own instrumentals, but this naive misapprehension ended up being an important part of my writing formula.

When I first created the Hidden Orchestra project, I was playing bass in a dubby drum and bass band, and felt the urge to write music of my own, for myself, containing all the different kinds of music I was into.

I wanted to use the chopped-up/looping/repetitive aesthetics of sample-based production from dance music and instrumental hip hop, but writing my own original samples.

This led to the formula of writing short pieces for solo instruments or small groups, which I would record and then sift through, picking out single notes, chords and short phrases to use as samples. And doing the same with drums, recreating vintage recording techniques to record hours of drum solos, from which I would only use a few bars.

I record musicians in my studio individually, from widely varying backgrounds (mostly Folk/Classical), also doing some guided improvisations, and then I compile these recordings to create my hidden orchestra…

Get it at Bandcamp.

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