Album Reviews Hannah Peel & Paraorchestra - The Unfolding

Published on 10th April 2022

Hannah Peel & Paraorchestra – The Unfolding


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This is left field, but I think it will appeal to some of the progressive music audience. It’s more of a crossover combining classical, progressive and electronica elements in a similar vein to Tangerine Dream, some of Grice Peters’ work, Richard Barbieri, and a few others. I find it relaxing and uplifting.

This is what they wrote to accompany the album’s posting on Bandcamp:

“There are pieces of music that seek to tell us deeper stories. Others harness the talents of the players at their disposal in adventurous ways. Then there are the rare, generous works that make us think back to our roots as human beings and to our shared beginnings in the universe, that lift us in their melodies, rhythms, and textures, that carry us with them. The Unfolding is all of these things. An extraordinary eight-part collaboration between composer Hannah Peel (Mercury Prize and Emmy nominee) and Paraorchestra, it was made over three years in precious morsels of time around a global pandemic. These circumstances – unexpected when the collaboration began – add weight to its explorations in sound about who we are, where we came from, and who we could all be. The Unfolding also explores Paraorchestra’s progressive idea of what an orchestra should be, mixing analogue, digital and assistive instruments with a unique ensemble of disabled and non-disabled musicians to make magic happen, and accessible to all.”

It is rare to warm so readily to a what is effectively a contemporary and modern piece of classical music, and combined with the manner of its recording I feel nothing but warmth for the project. Either for a relaxing listen or for an interpretation in contemporary dance, it fits well with its loose theme. In the strong rhythmic passages you can imagine accompanying movement; ebb, and flow, tidal, but also marking time. Some passages make use of the stereo effect as the music travels from speaker to speaker.

The Universe Before Matter is a piece running just over 10-minutes, yet within that time manages to represent both the void and coalescing Earth. It’s like bathing in a sensory deprivation tank; close your eyes and let the music fill your soul. If you dislike choral works then this may not work for you, but persistence has its own reward, and I would hope it will leave you feeling a little less of the weight of the world.

Wild Animal introduces a more rhythmic element, primordial movement to the point of toe-tapping. Recorded at Real World Studios in Box, you can sense the DNA of the building and its principal artist, Peter Gabriel, at times reminding me of Passion. Words softly spoken add to the overall ambience: “She says I was a wild animal”, indeed.

We move forward by way of Passage, calm with a feeling of spirituality, an ascension rising up through clouds or uphill through mist until the point where you break through, and the cloud remains below your waist. If you have been lucky to have experienced that euphoria, as your body breaks surface but the unbroken cloud lake spreads out to the horizon, then you’ll understand what I mean. The Unfolding continues in this vein; voice, woodwind, and strings with electronica background radiation. I find it quite beautiful.

If After Weeks of Early Sun picks up the pace, suitable for moments of interpretative dance (much loved by hat-wearing reviewers of this parish!). A good workout could be achieved here, percussion driven with an African feel to some aspects. A great track, and a contrast to the proceeding atmospheric ambience.

Perhaps it Made Us Happy for a Minute, a fair observation, and this Peter Gabriel-like track builds upon that sense of well-being and holds it. I love the way that it, to me, is not only a comforting sound, but also as if nature has joined with you, becoming observer, and observed.

We Are Part Mineral has a great sensory video, as can be seen above, other artistry joins with the growing music to give some visual stimulation to the piece. More dancing may ensue… I like the way it builds to a peak, like an Ennio Morricone western tune – the Good, the Not Bad at All, and the Definitely Not Ugly. I hope this is the first of more collaborations between Ms. Peel and Paraorchestra. Part Cloud is the conclusion of what appears to be a suite of two, so the commentary I have provided applies to both tracks.

The last track is the ‘Ronseal’ moment – it does exactly what its title suggests: The Unfolding Credits, as performers, production, and valued assistance is intoned over music. It should be annoying; it isn’t and completes this exceptionally fine album.

For an escape, and something a little different, I commend this to your listening pleasure. Enjoy.

Hannah Peel plays live on 5th May at The Sage in Gateshead, 21st May at The Barbican in London and 21st June at Jodrell Bank, Manchester. All excellent venues for what promises to be an interesting performance, the YouTube imagery projected onto the dishes would be amazing.

TRACK LISTING
01. The Universe Before Matter (10:58)
02. Wild Animal (3:55)
03. Passage (5:23)
04. The Unfolding (5:48)
05. If After Weeks of Early Sun (4:17)
06. Perhaps it Made us Happy for a Minute (4:18)
07. We Are Part Mineral (6:06)
08. Part Cloud (10:32)
09. The Unfolding Credits (2:19)

Total Time – 53:36

MUSICIANS
Hannah Peel – Synths & Electronics, Vocals
Victoria Oruwari – Vocals
Chloe Vincent – Alto Flute, Flute
James Risdon – Recorders
Guy Passey – Bb Clarinet
Lloyd Coleman – Bass Clarinet
Linton Stephens – Bassoon
Harriet Riley – Percussion
Jonny Leitch – Drums
Kincaid – Programming (track 2)
Tom Wraith – Cello
Hattie McCall Davies – Cello
Patrick Phillip – Double Bass
Charles Hazelwood – Conductor

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 1st April 2022

LINKS
Hannah Peel – Website | Facebook | YouTube | Twitter | Bandcamp

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