Preludes, Airs & Yodels (A Penguin Cafe Primer) album cover
Preludes, Airs & Yodels (A Penguin Cafe Primer)

Penguin Cafe Orchestra


The slipperiness of the Balearic aesthetic makes it impossible to name definitive records — but there are several without which it’s very hard to understand that aesthetic. And this collection of the best works by the late Simon Jeffes’s collective is one. It’s appropriate that the concept for the group came to Jeffes in a dream on the Mediterranean — albeit in the South of France — as the gentle, repetitive string minimalism of PCO has proved to be the ultimate soundtrack for sunsets and waves in the Balearic isles. Combining whimsical English and other folk motifs, the minimalist repetitions of Philip Glass and Michael Nyman, and the dreamy modernism of Brian Eno (who initially signed them to his Obscure Music label), PCO pre-empted a lot of the most sophisticated dance and electronic music, and created bittersweet moods that would be heavily mined by Balearic DJs like José Padilla. Individual PCO albums can swerve a bit far into prog rock indulgence on occasion, but this best-of collection is pretty much faultless.

Joe Muggs

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