As years go by and as the collective embark on different projects, the term “Hidden Orchestra” keeps taking on a multitude of new meanings. Originally a reference to the fact that orchestras playing for silent films in theatres were hidden from view, every band’s releases also commonly “feature a wide variety of guest musicians from different musical backgrounds, recorded separately, and combined by Joe [Acheson] in his studio to create an ‘imaginary orchestra’ that doesn’t really exist.”

With the collective’s new instalment, the music created relies on a “hidden orchestra” of garden birds and natural found sounds. The birds pecking and the wings fluttering generate the underlying tempo of the newly made-up symphony. Four years after the collective’s last full-length LP Archipelago, the Wingbeats EP was released on Brighton-based ThruThoughts records in November 2016 last as a digital download and vinyl only.

Hidden Orchestra - Wingbeats (2016) - Artwork © Norman Ackroyd
Hidden Orchestra – Wingbeats (2016) – Artwork © Norman Ackroyd

“For as long as I can remember” notes multi-instrumentalist, composer and Hidden Orchestra leader Joe Acheson,

I have found that what draws me to a piece of music can often be one small detail – a single characteristic or maybe a fleeting moment of beautiful sound or compelling rhythm…

Based on a collection of cello (Su-a Lee), piano (Joe Acheson), harp (Mary MacMaster), violin (Poppy Ackroyd), bass clarinet (Jiri Javurek) and rhythmic loops (Jamie Graham & Tim Lane) sampled with minutely detailed sound clips and ambient field recordings of a bustling countryside, the immersive creation centres on a mesmeric 12’ long orchestral arrangement.

To illustrate the compositional process at work, the B side of the EP introduces the six individual tracks – or the decomposed “source material” – which were eventually sampled into the final mix of Wingbeats. The level of detail is fascinating.

Leaving crumbs of toast and cheese on a bird table generates micro beats and “synchronised beating wings recorded over the last few years” uncover a wealth of scattering rhythmic patterns. They are sampled with piano improvisation while the riff underpinning the whole track was recorded on a glockenspiel and electro harp. Layered cello, a Turkish mey, wind chimes and a dawn chorus are also woven into the rich musical tapestry.

A sonic experiment, the Wingbeats EP beautifully turns into a dramatic mixed-media project with an original video of the Icelandic landscape and wildlife illustrating the track.