November 20 2020

Prague-based indie games company Amanita Design released their new puzzle adventure Creaks this summer. This time they enlisted the help of Joe Acheson (aka Hidden Orchestra) to create the soundtrack, following in the footsteps of the duo DVA and Joe’s long-time friend and collaborator Tomáš Dvořák (Floex). For Joe this was a new challenge, which he was able to meet with an outsider’s perspective on the gaming music tradition, as a non-gamer doing his first soundtrack. In this brain-teasing game, players may have to restart levels several times, and the duration of each level depends on each player’s speed at finding the solutions. In order to avoid listener fatigue caused by constantly restarting and looping pieces of music, Joe decided to create an endless ‘living soundtrack’, using software primarily designed for sound effects and atmospheres. By creating numerous variations for every part played by every instrument, and choosing between them using randomised conditional logic, the game’s music is self-generating and infinite, with constantly varying arrangements - while each piece is clearly recognisable, it will never sound exactly the same twice.
The player’s progress through the game also controls the structure of the music, as each piece moves through its sections as the stages of each puzzle are solved. Joe also wanted to reflect Amanita’s trademark marriage of beautiful hand-drawn artwork with technology, which fits neatly with his own approach of using only real instruments and musicians, but treating them with production techniques from sample-based music in order to create an imaginary orchestra.
"Each of the characters in the game is represented by a different instrument – for example, a selection of different zithers for the main hero character. The genres of music in the game reflect the progression through time in the game's artwork" reveals Joe Acheson himself. The musical mosaic on Creaks is very diverse and offers a broad creative spread, which bears the recognisable handwriting of Hidden Orchestra. It offers a kaleidoscope from minimalist improvisations for solo piano, through more diverse orchestrations for winds and strings, to conceptual compositions driven in an electronic background. "We start in a primitive world, where the music is mostly created from simple ancient styles of instruments (zithers, flutes, percussion) and some home-made instruments (tunable chimes made from a deconstructed glockenspiel, a harp made from an egg-slicer). Then we go into a gothic/baroque world, filled with bells, organs and choirs. Then a Classical world, dominated by pianos and strings, and an Electronic world filled with textures, rhythms, bass lines and melodies created on a modular synth, finally ending up in a futuristic dark magical world full of bass clarinet”.
Whilst playing the majority of instruments on the record himself (including piano, basses, zithers, analog synth, flutes, percussion, harmonium and many more), Joe most prominently features the newest members of Hidden Orchestra on this release - Jack McNeill (clarinet, bass clarinet) and Rebecca Knight (cello) - and did not hesitate to enlist his traditional collaborators Tim Lane and Jamie Graham (drums) and Poppy Ackroyd (violin), with brief cameo appearances from Yvo Ackroyd Acheson (shakers), Ali Tocher (bells, zither-box percussion), Su-a Lee (cello), Phil Cardwell (trumpet), and the aforementioned Tomáš Dvořák (clarinet).

Creaks Soundtrack is the fourth full-length studio album from Hidden Orchestra, following Night Walks (2010), Archipelago (2012), and Dawn Chorus (2017). Other notable releases include Reorchestrations (2015), a collection of Joe’s reworkings of mainly classical and folk musicians, 2016’s Wingbeats EP, and several volumes of remixes of Hidden Orchestra material by an extremely diverse array of artists. The powerful and virtuosic live show has toured dozens of countries over the last decade, performing hundreds of shows with a fluctuating lineup of guest players and arresting live visuals.

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October 10 2020

Four new tracks accompanied by live videos are being published by Zabelov Group. The Czech-belarusian duo comprised of multi-instrumentalist Jan Šikl and singer accordionist Roman Zabelov yet again invited film maker Tomáš Vlček for a collaboration. Madhouse Session is the second recording released under the Minority Records label after the album Eg (2018).

While the previous album Eg is a precisely puzzled highly-developed studio piece which came into being at multiple locations with contributions by various artists and did not allow for all the tracks to be performed live due to its demanding nature, Madhouse Session is a live recording of concert preparations which were also partly introduced live e.g. at the German Jazzclub Tonne or as a support for Portico Quartet at the Spectaculare festival.

“Madhouse Session had a strong ambition to emancipate itself in the process of recording. Most of the old pieces were the work of Matouš Godík, which was noticeable in the sounds and we were very happy with the collaboration. However, we needed to try the sound production ourselves. From samples to master recording it was up to us, everything was created in a home studio where we rehearse. We have to say that we are happy with the result. It turned out that limits are often opportunities for new and interesting solutions. We feel that we finished the process of a sort of musical emancipation“ says Šikl.

EP Madhouse Session is comprised of four tracks, the name originates from the constricted atmosphere in society and personal feelings of isolation. Spoviedz carries within itself a hope and quiet pain, which turns itself into a shout and a courage to fight, Sun is a pulsing cinematic cycle, I’m OK talks about a spiritual transformation from affect into a state, which we call normal, Juli processes communication with a person who does not pay you enough attention and thus begins a complex verbal fight.

Roman Zabelovs’ vocals are also used on the largest scale so far in Madhouse Session: “I always felt a little insecure about my singing, but for a long time I have lacked the courage to go to a professional and seek help. Last year I was finally brave enough and had the opportunity to attend opera singing lessons at HAMU. It was an unbelievable experience, we learned how to breath and how to create a full, clear sound. I am very grateful for this opportunity, thinking back on it I realize how needed was the technical and psychological help I have received, “ adds Zabelov.

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