Penguin Cafe – Handfuls of Night

Album Review | Erased Tapes Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

Keeping the spirit of his father’s music alive, Arthur Jeffes continues to build upon the unique and original compositions for which Simon was known.  An initial play through of the nine gentle and moody instrumental compositions that make up Handfuls of Night, possibly suggests something more suited to a Thomas Hardy film adaptation, “Chinstrap” for instance, or maybe even “Adelie” both of which conjure up images of Jude Fawley chipping away at his stones.  Further investigation however tells us that it is ice rather than stone being chipped away at, for a suite dedicated to an Antarctic adventure, as illustrated in the cover shot and in the composition titles, such as “The Life of an Emperor”, one of our endangered species – we’re definitely talking penguins by penguins here.  

The project began with four especially composed pieces in celebration of the four species native to the Antarctic, the Chinstrap, Adélie, Gentoo and Emperor, all of which are suitably name-checked here.  The wide open and sometimes hostile spaces that provide a home for these creatures are suggested in such pieces as “At the Top of the Hill They Stood” and “Pythagoras on the Line Again”, the latter of which provides a slight echo of something Arthur’s dad did for the Malcolm soundtrack over thirty years ago.  There’s tension throughout “Chapter”, with its trance-like arpeggios keeping very much to the Penguin Cafe ethos of minimalism and adventure, which appears here in equal measure.  Whether the music on Handfuls of Night evokes for you the Antarctic tundra, Hardy’s nineteenth century Dorset, a cluttered metropolis as viewed from an overhead cable car or the mysterious surface of the Moon, it’s pure musical escapism, which will take you wherever you want it to.

Choice Track: “Chinstrap” (NSV 487)