Hidden Orchestra – Archipelago
Hidden Orchestra's sophomore album sees the Edinburgh outfit once more trading in lushly-orchestrated, cinematic compositions with strings, flute, horn and brass filling out the complex polyrhythms of their two drummers. Birdsong echoes through sublime opener Overture, building towards the exquisite, elegiac sweep of the string-led Flight. Reminder is all taut, hushed menace, evoking spy movie soundtracks. Throughout, the playing is technically precise, almost immaculate.
Band leader Joe Acheson's sense of space, depth and place inform each track, lending an epic, atmospheric feel to the album as a whole. It is impossible not to imagine Archipelago as a narrative, moving through moments of blissed-out calm and bittersweet reflection into tense, edgy moments of darkness. It's an assured, intricately constructed piece of work, more akin to a symphony than an album. Its refined instrumentation and delicate melodic framework mean it works well as background music, yet on close listen it is a richly-rewarding and layered experience. [Bram E Gieben]