Hidden Orchestra A/V show– Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Sat 20 Jul 2013
Assured but unimaginative jazz-electronica performance as part of the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival
This article is from 2013.
For those familiar with the sound of Hidden Orchestra, the billing of tonight’s gig as an audio-visual show makes perfect sense. Across two albums – 2010’s Night Walks and 2012’s Archipelago – Joe Acheson and co have created a jazz-electronica melange that is utterly cinematic in nature, combining sound effects such as rainstorms and bird tweets with layered beats, vocal samples and effects-laden instrumentals to suggest an unseen film noir. With such a rich, evocative sound to draw on, there’s reason to hope they’ll have a moody, compelling visual show to match.
Sadly, this is not the case; instead, we get footage of icebergs, sky diving formations, slow-mo smoke puffs and a dozen other stock footage cliches, not unlike watching establishing shots from a David Attenborough doc or a better-soundtracked tampon ad. Against such an uninspiring backdrop, any deficiencies in the music are magnified: Acheson’s fevered knob-twiddling often results in too many muddy instrumental layers, and the solo battles between the dual drummers, which prove a thrilling sight on the first occasion, get stale and repetitive by the fourth.
Thankfully, about half the songs (typically those from the more sparsely-arranged Night Walks) still have the same clarity and cinematic draw as their studio-recorded counterparts, and certain flourishes – the fluttering trumpet scales on ‘Dust’, the tight drum fills on ‘Wandering’ – showcase individual band members’ undeniable talents. If only they had a team with the production and visual skills to match.