Hidden Orchestra and guests preach electro-jazz sermon @ Union Chapel

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The soaring Gothic rotunda and hushed reverence amongst the creaking pews of Islington’s working church, The Union Chapel, make an inspiring pulpit for jazz-electro proselytizers, Hidden Orchestra, and their disciples: solo pianist, Poppy Ackroyd, and borrowed sounds trio, Origamibiro, at tonight’s thunder and light show.

Accompanied by moody video above her head, violinist and pianist Poppy Ackroyd’s classical-meets-loops compositions are mournful without feeling sorry for themselves. Next up, producer Tom Hill and instrumentalist Andy Tytherleigh of Origamibiro: a live radiophonic workshop using loops in the vein of the musique concrète school while visual artist The Joy of Box throws videos of fleeting words and images onto the screen behind them.

Conceieved as a solo studio project by producer, bassist and composer Joe Achelon, Hidden Orchestra is incarnated for live outings by a stable of musicians including regular members Poppy Ackroyd, double drummers Jaime Green and Tim Lane (also on occasional trombone), plus spotlights from clarinettist and electro-acoustic specialist, Florex (aka Tomas Dvorak)on ‘Hushed’ and trumpeter Phil Cardwell on ‘Seven Hunters’. Starting life in Achelon’s mixing desk, bass sounds worm their way into the ear as the band gradually develops an idea and piles on the layers, with Green’s hi-hat and snare-based groove work cutting through sympathetically over the texture laid down by Lane with mallets and beaters. The live performance is necessarily rich in detail, but it also injects some of the beating energy from 2010’s more upfront debut album Night Walks which is less in evident on the recorded version of 2012’s more contemplative follow-up album, Archipelago.

For this live AV show, as well as impeccable acoustics, the unique architecture of the building presents a majestic canvas for Leeds-based audio-visual collective, Lumen. Theroom is illuminated with phantasmal green light and the spectacular rose window behind the stage becomes a spinning kaleidoscope pulsating to the hypnotic beat like a giant sub-woofer. The impassive stone walls are continually bricked up and torn down again Tetris style, and the columns around the pews are carved and re-carved using forced-perspective light-work. By the end the congregation is full of the Spirit and stomps its feet in a gesture of supplication. But timeliness is next to godliness and stage times at Union Chapel run strictly to schedule; it is a somewhat nervous Achelon who is coaxed back to the stage for a seemingly unplanned encore of ‘Antiphon’.

In tonight’s contemplative performance space, the repetition and iteration of recorded sounds in the minimalist tradition combined with the awe-inspiring light show transubstantiated the night from gig to religious experience for the assembled masses.

– Steve Owen