As a gentleman of a “certain” age there are concerts and events that can only be described as nostalgia. I remember first hearing this band when I was 25 years old, on the radio, and immediately going out and buying the album on CD. It was addictive stuff and stuff that defied categorisation. It wasn’t pop or rock or classical or folk or indeed any one specific genre. If I had to describe it now I would categorise it as whimsy, yes that works for me, it was and is whimsical.

Creator Simon Jeffes passed away back in 1997 at the age of 48, far too young, but his legacy carries on in the more than competent hands of his son Arthur. In 2007 Arthur formed the band Penguin Cafe to play not only his fathers’ works but also new compositions, compositions that have that same sense of whimsy and delight.

Here in the Corn Exchange we were treated to two sets, the first works from their new album Rain Before Seven. The pieces share the same complexities as his father’s work for sure but there is also a deeper sense of melancholy at times, not at the expense of fun, there is plenty of fun to be had.

The music is on one level light but start to take it apart and there is mathematical complexity, fascinating time signatures, looping and swooping themes, teasing tonality and cheeky changes of key. The combination of piano, violin, viola, cello and bass is combined with percussion, bellaphone, ukeleles of various sizes and even at one point melodica, that weird thing that kids at junior school who had piano lessons would bring along to recorder classes, they added little to the hideous noise we produced trying to play Go And Tell Aunt Nancy.

There was nothing hideous on this occasion and, after a short interval, the band returned and delivered a set of Simon Jeffes’ classics that put smiles on the faces of an almost capacity crowd.

When asked about the music it is hard to clearly define, but let me try, as stated before this is whimsical, but whimsy through which we might hear Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Ravel all by way of The Chieftains, Fairport Convention and every scratch jig playing folk combo you might find in your local pub… Confused? Don’t be, just listen and enjoy.

Andrew Kay

17 November

Brighton Corn Exchange

Rating: ★★★★☆

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