Hidden Orchestra – Live

birds, river

Sometimes the Fates deal us a difficult hand. Just recently it has not been enough for Crotchety Man to paddle his own canoe; he has been asked to paddle other people’s canoes as well. That, of course, is flattering but this naturally nervous gentleman was never cut out to lead the paddlers’ flotilla.

Do I know where the river of life will take us? Do I relish the prospect of venturing into the unknown? Do I have a proven track record of navigating hazardous terrain? The answer to all those questions is, “No”. But I don’t like to let people down, especially those who are willing to put their trust in me. So the responsibilities mount up. And sometimes they become a burden.

This old sailor has been drifting down river for long enough, now, to know that one man can’t steer many boats through choppy waters. It may be dangerous to let go of the tiller for a moment but it’s probably better for the admiral to risk one vessel than to overstretch and topple into the swirling waters himself. So I’m handing over control of this blog post to the local pilot to take us through this one hour performance of Hidden Orchestra tracks sequenced and mixed live by their composer, Joe Acheson.

This was a one-off version of a solo show for a specific event, and almost the opposite of the full band show. It was in an interactive laser forest which was part of an extensive immersive VR installation at the venue. So I played back all the birdsong recordings I used to make Dawn Chorus, and over the top I improvised with a laptop and some effects pedals, creating live dub arrangements of Hidden Orchestra tracks using the recordings I made for the original album versions – combining different parts, restructuring and reorchestrating the pieces on the fly. I wanted to let the birdsong speak (Dawn Chorus was my birds’ record), so I kept the other layers really ambient, using big echoes and reverbs and filters to shape the sounds.

 – Joe Acheson

Readers of this blog will know that Hidden Orchestra is one of my favourite bands, in fact, it is the flagship in the Crotchety Fleet. Their Archipelago album flies at the top of the mast and fills the sails with a fair wind (these are ocean-going canoes). But believe me when I say this mixtape presents Hidden Orchestra‘s material at its spectacular best.

It sings sweeter than the Siren maidens and pounds with the force of Atlantic rollers. It is as calm as a millpond and as restless as the sea. It bellows with the sound of a conch shell lustily blown and whispers the foamy words of surf lapping on a sandy shore. That is where I will steer my canoe. If you follow me, together we will find paradise. But, please, bring your own paddle.


Joe Acheson’s new album Live at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts comes out on 3rd May.

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