It’s been an astonishing couple of years for Manchester based trio GoGo Penguin (drummer Rob Turner, double bassist Nick Blacka and pianist Chris Illingworth). Their trademark mash-up of minimalist piano themes, deeply propulsive bass lines and electronica-inspired drums has seen them shortlisted for the Mercury Prize and fuelled their exhilarating live shows from Manchester to Montreal and Paris to London. They’ve written and performed a new score for Godfrey Reggio’s cult film Koyaanisqatsi and collaborated with noted choreographer Lynn Page for a Gilles Peterson-curated night at the Barbican. And in the midst of all this they’ve signed a multi-album deal with Blue Note Records, the most famous jazz label on earth. Their latest album, released in 2016, is called Man Made Object and it’s the sound of a band confidently pursuing their own path. “The title is partly inspired by my fascination with ideas of robotics, transhumanism and human augmentation,” says pianist Illingworth. “We’re recreating electronic music on acoustic instruments. It’s like a man-made object that has become humanised and it seemed like a good album title, one that also means something different to each of us, and hopefully to each listener.”
Indeed, although they’re predominately an acoustic piano trio, GoGo Penguin’s music draws from many areas of contemporary electronic music, one where you can hear arcade game bleeps, glitchy breakbeats, hypnotic Aphex-style melodies, grinding bass lines and a rumbling low-end. It has been described as “acoustic electronica”, a term which perfectly sums up their modus operandi. “Many of the songs on this album started out as electronic compositions that I made on sequencing software like Logic or Ableton,” says drummer Turner. “I’ll then play it to the band and we’ll find ways of replicating it acoustically.” And it is that ability to synthesis the seemingly disparate influences of electronica, jazz and classical music into their own unique musical DNA that gives GoGo Penguin such an instantly recognisable and compelling sound. One that’s now reaching an even wider audience with the release of Man Made Object.
KOYAANISQATSI – A NEW SCORE (PERFORMED LIVE)
Hull Jazz Festival, J-Night and Hull UK City of Culture 2017 present a special event to mark Hull Jazz Festival’s 25th anniversary. Jazz electronica outfit GoGo Penguin perform their exhilarating new live score to Godfrey Reggio’s cult masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi in the stunning surroundings of Hull City Hall.
Originally scored by Philip Glass, Koyaanisqatsi is a remarkable cinematic masterpiece and a firm favourite of the band’s for its powerful fusion of music and image. In 2015, GoGo Penguin wrote and performed their new score for the film as part of the opening season of Home – a new centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film in Manchester. The audience response was over-whelming and the band has chosen to revisit the project in 2017.
GoGo Penguin’s richly emotional music offers a perfect contemporary dialogue with Reggio’s profound images. Moving from fragile beauty to powerful frenzy, their rich new score reflects the original themes of the film and, in performance, offers an overwhelming audio-visual experience that will appeal to fans of GoGo Penguin and cult cinema in equal measure.
This production was originally commissioned by HOME in Manchester as part of the Music and Film Project, supported by Film Hub North West Central, part of the BFI Film Audience Network , and the PRS for Music Foundation.
GoGo Penguin will also present As Above So Below, their commissioned tribute to Basil Kirchin, Hull’s forgotten musical genius. And there’s another opportunity to see Nova Studios’ Kirchin documentary Mind on The Run.