Album Reviews

Pentatonik – A Thousand Paper Cranes

(Hydrogen Dukebox) UK release date: 24 August 2009

The third album from Simeon Bowring as Pentatonik is described as “a ‘peace’ album, an album that decries war and celebrates the human spirit”.

It takes as its theme the story of a young Japanese girl who died from the effects of the H bomb. It was her belief that if she created a thousand paper cranes she would live, but she left a moving epitaph, taken by Simeon as the starting point for this piece of work.

It’s an ambitious, almost classically structured attempt to create a single flow of music that lasts just under an hour, its musical themes – pentatonic, naturally – seemingly drawn from Japan itself.

Though some of the textures are those of more traditional chill out material, it’s the overall approach to structure and the strong Japanese flavourings that lift this far above the average, and though the prominent instruments are the piano and strings, there are instruments in the middle foreground that also bring a strong flavour of the Far East.

Just occasionally Simeon applies too big a coat of gloss to his orchestration, and The Rush Of You ventures towards the closing credits of a TV documentary, but by and large Simeon’s musical instincts are extremely sound.

Opener Aquamarine has traces of Philip Glass in its rippling piano arpeggios, while the substantial title track is the crowning glory, a beautifully poised and structured piece of work that shows Simeon can work with minimal material and make something special out of it, using techniques not dissimilar to Steve Reich.

Meanwhile towards the end of Desert Fall he conjures something akin to an enormous musical sigh, the whole of his electronic orchestra dipping as one in a most striking effect.

So while the music of Pentatonik takes a fair bit from the likes of Vangelis, Ryuchi Sakamoto, Brian Eno and those mentioned above, it has more than enough individuality to stand on its own.

A Thousand Paper Cranes is an impressive piece of work, and may open the door for even more adventurous compositions that blur the boundaries between ambient electronica and classical music.

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Pentatonik – A Thousand Paper Cranes