Five questions with Joe Acheson

The man behind Hidden Orchestra talks about his latest work, Reorchestrations—an eclectic suite of seven tracks by experimental/classical/folk musicians, brilliantly re-orchestrated by Acheson. Across a space of thirty-four minutes the mind-stirring manipulation, cunning morphing and sharp groove of Hidden Orchestra assertively reinterpret effective works by some of Acheson’s peers and collaborators.

Joe Acheson in action (image by Yann Robert)

Joe Acheson in action (image by Yann Robert)

Igloo logo What was it about these seven tracks that made you want to put them under the Hidden Orchestra spell?

Acheson :: These are all artists who I met through recording and touring around Europe in the last few years, some were originally commissioned as remixes, others were just tracks I really liked with elements similar to ones I would use in my own music, and at first I started making these expanded rearrangements just for the enjoyment of it—I wanted to hear this music I loved with more drums, big orchestral textures, deep basslines…Gradually I started to find a common style in my approach to some of these reworkings, and these are the ones which I thought fit together as a unified album, most in the Hidden Orchestra style.

Igloo logo Remixing is always a tricky task to perform, often the charm of the original piece gets squeezed out. You infused the pieces you had chosen to re-orchestrate with the signature, idiosyncratic Hidden Orchestra characteristics, but managed to preserve the unique charm of each piece. How do you feel about the end results?

Acheson :: I’m really pleased with the results. You’ve described exactly what I was aiming to achieve, and I hope that the future volumes of ‘Reorchestrations’ continue to evolve and develop in this way of working.

Igloo logo Played live with the other members of Hidden Orchestra, these reorchestrations can get a whole new dimension. Are you going to play some of them live with the entire band?

Acheson :: We are already playing some of the tracks live, and I’ve started a whole new 2-piece show inspired by the project, in which I perform improvised live remixes of these tracks as well as some Hidden Orchestra material, accompanied by live drums/percussion, with lots of live effects, dub, looping, and on-stage production.

Igloo logo Is the band already working on a new Hidden Orchestra album, and if so, in what stage is the work?

Acheson :: I work on the albums alone in my studio, before arranging the live versions for the band—at the moment I am trying to get through a lot of other work such as soundtracks and various commissions (such as a residency project with the National Trust and the British Library about coastal sounds in Britain), and I usually find that these feed in to the album-making process…I’ve recorded several musicians, and lots of interesting field recordings, and I hope to be able to finish a new album this year.

Igloo logo All Hidden Orchestra albums come with captivating artwork. Tell us a bit about the artist responsible for that.

Acheson :: Norman Ackroyd is the artist responsible. The artwork for ‘Reorchestrations’ is the view from the top of the island hill in the background of the artwork on the last full Hidden Orchestra album ‘Archipelago’. Norman and I landed on the island in rough conditions and climbed up the cliffs to get a view which very few people see—the island is no longer inhabited, and very rarely visited. Something about the way Norman uses lots of complex processes to create something simultaneously abstract and yet recognisable, which appears deceptively simple, and yet captures the feeling of nature precisely—all of this chimes with my way of working. To know more about Norman and his working methods, I recommend this excellent and fascinating BBC documentary ‘What Do Artists Do All Day’.

Reorchestrations tracklist ::
1. “Cross Hands” (Hidden Orchestra Remix) – Piano Interrupted 5:52
2. “5 Steps” (Hidden Orchestra Remix) – Clarinet Factory 5:50
3. “Lyre Grounds” (Hidden Orchestra Remix) – Poppy Ackroyd 6:02
4. “Thograinn Thograinn” (Hidden Orchestra Remix) – Macmaster / Hay 4:27
5. “Saturnin Fire And The Restless Ocean” (Hidden Orchestra Remix) – Floex 4:18
6. “Sleep Key” (Hidden Orchestra Remix) – Long Arm 4:31
7. Hidden Orchestra – “The Revival” 4:40

Reorchestrations is out June 26 on Denovali. The opening track of the album was released earlier this year on Piano Interrupted’s The Unified Field Reconstructed. Listen below.

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