Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this beautiful album is that the man behind Hidden Orchestra, Joe Acheson, cites DJ Premier as a seminal influence. That’s pretty standard for an album reviewed on Okayplayer, but not one that sounds like this, where there isn’t an MC or any hint of boom-bap. This is an album rooted firmly in the wilds of the Scottish highlands, a stunning, intricate, delicate, evocative, beautiful (you really can’t say that word enough about Archipelago) record.
The name Hidden Orchestra is inspired by the musicians who in the early days of film used to play the accompanying music to the movie while hidden in the bowels of the cinema. It’s a doubly appropriate moniker, as the sound is widescreen in concept and execution, a soundtrack to the world evoked on the cover, a stark, windswept monument of natural beauty. The orchestral vibe comes through in the epic volume of the music and the symphonic nature of its composition. This is where Primo’s influence as the master of loops shows, a mastery that Acheson translates into the themes and motifs that develop, progress, and evolve in each piece of music. This is no more apparent than on the opening “Overture”, a beautiful piece of music in its own right and contains elements that recur throughout the rest of the album.
But apart from being beautiful, what does Archipelago sound like? Well, for an immediate reference point look no further than fellow Tru Thoughts alumnus Bonobo. They both create the same kind of music that’s all too often labeled ‘trip hop’ or ‘chill out’–music that’s beautifully orchestrated, arranged and performed by real instruments and musicians, with hip-hop and jazz-influenced rhythms behind them. But none of these crude labels begin to do justice to the sheer majesty of Archipelago.
The music here builds, ebbs and flows to fantastic effect, as horns, violin, woodwind, piano, harp and sounds recorded from nature circle over rhythms and melodies that are at turns harmonious and menacing. It’s intoxicating. As the album unfolds you’re drawn inexorably into a world of high quality music that deserves to be savoured, devoured, replayed and pored over, and above all, enjoyed.
– Will Georgi