This is a CD I recently discovered languishing in a box of promos. The name of the group rang a bell (although I’ve since realised that I was thinking of the Shadow Project), so I gave it a spin. I was impressed enough to do some further digging. It seems that the Shadow Orchestra’s self-titled album was privately released by the band, so it’s not easy to get a hold of from mainstream outlets. Amazon, for example, don’t stock it. The album is mainly the work of one Chris Bangs, although the band are fleshed out to a five piece for live work. The music exists on a similar plane to the likes of Fennesz, Boards of Canada, Susumu Yokota and Pilote, taking laptop electronica and mixing it with live instrumentation. It’s a varied and inventive record. The mood is generally reflective, but unlike a lot of releases of this kind, the tunes stand up well as individual entities rather than flowing anonymously into one another.
Four cuts stand out for me. “Spring 2005” is built around sampled whistling. That doesn’t sound promising on paper, but the track is a gentle and sunny piece that is hard to listen to without breaking into a smile. “Rain Music” is the only vocal track on the album and features the clear tones of Edinburgh based singer Amy Duncan. It’s a slice of delightful pastoral pop – like the quieter side of Piano Magic. That track leads into “The Biggest Animal Of All”, which wouldn’t sound out of place on Port-Royal’s latest magnum opus. It has a great guitar line played by Chris Warren. The album closes with the best track of all – “Theme From Backpacker Orpheus” – a stunningly beautiful cello and percussion piece.
This is a great record and deserves to be heard. The group’s website is at www.shadoworchestra.com. As well as listing the places from where the LP can be bought, there are a number of free MP3s including a live mix of “Spring 2005” –http://www.shadoworchestra.com/music/spring-2005-live-mix.mp3.