To mark the 20th year since his untimely passing, Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s mainstay Simon Jeffes son, Arthur, who carries on his fathers legacy under the name Penguin Cafe, has colluded with the brilliant Erased Tapes label to re-release the PCO’s final studio album ‘Union Cafe’ on December 1st, including a vinyl edition, the first time it will have been available on wax.
Speaking about the record, Arthur Jeffes said:
“Union Cafe marked a move towards a definitive English pastoral sound combined with larger string arrangements set against longer solo piano pieces. With this last album they got even closer to the PCO idea of squaring the circle of intellectually challenging modern music that is still actually beautiful. For me this has always been a contender as my favourite PCO album, and the fact that it never ended up on vinyl was more to do with the way things were in the early 90s, and chance rather than it being deliberate. So in that sense this release is righting an old wrong. The slow development of the pieces means that you can really get lost in them and vinyl is of course the perfect way to do that.”
Robert Raths, founder of Erased Tapes Records explains why this album means so much to him:
“The first song from ‘Union Cafe’ that I’d unknowingly heard was Nothing Really Blue, performed live by Arthur and his successor band Penguin Cafe at the Barbican in summer 2016. He simply announced it as “another one of my dad’s”, and left me wondering all night about which record it was from… It wasn’t until summer 2017, a whole year later, that Arthur shared his father’s last studio recordings with me. ‘Union Cafe’ is a record that somehow missed me, simply because it wasn’t available on vinyl like the other records I had gathered over the years. I couldn’t help but feel privileged for the chance to discover another original PCO album. And so I put my headphones on and lay down at the foot of the small lake in Victoria Park to listen to this box of treasures. And as with all of Simon’s works, a whole world appeared in front of my closed eyelids — a world full of love and wonder, that manages to put tears in my eyes, shivers down my spine and a smile on my face. Scherzo And Trio would become the song that manages to brighten up my days, no matter how grey London sometimes gets. Organum would become the piece that Arthur played at my wedding. Cage Dead with its déjà vu-like character would become the theme song to a series of live sessions with artists from all around the world performing in the Sound Gallery, our new home on Victoria Park Road. Songs like Silver Star Of Bologna and Kora Kora, just like all the classic PCO songs, would feel familiar, though I’d never heard them before. Lie Back And Think Of England sounded like the work of a seasoned composer and yet unfamiliar at the same time — it made me wonder if Simon was planning a new adventure for his orchestra. Lastly, Passing Through would remind me that having a hidden track on your album was very popular with bands in the 90s, but finishing your album with the sound of water dripping out of a sink, slowly forming a musical pattern within all the chaos before the record suddenly ends, surely must be the most perfect way to say goodbye.”
Arthur very kindly gave access to the original ‘Union Cafe’ painting that currently lives in his North London home studio, created by Arthur’s mother Emily Young and now photographed by Alex Kozobolis for this special reissue edition. Listen to the albums standout track “Nothing Really Blue” from the record here