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4.5 out of 5 stars17
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 12 March 2001
I only became aware of Jocelyn Pook's music a few days ago when a CMN Tours sampler came through my door and what has followed has been a total revelation. On it was a track entitled 'Butterfly Song' which caught my attention not only because it is hideously beautiful but also because it is sung backwards. It began as the starting point for the music to Granada TV's 'The Butterfly Collectors' in 1999. Using a poem about a garden by James I, it then turns this backwards and fits the instrumentation around the melody of the new language. The verses are interspersed with Pook's wonderfully composed string section and her on piano. (The version on the album and on the free disc are rather different). It is as if other music suddenly has something missing. I think it would be wrong to pass off the sound which Jocelyn has created as merely a fusion of experimental classical with world music as her imagination takes the listener to some third place. Having worked in both classical and popular fields, she has envisioned and executed something which feels entirely fresh and new - and yet is based on traditional music of sort or another. This is album not to be missed - if I could award it six stars I would!
The album opens with the instantly enchanting, pulsating rhythms of 'Dionysus', which is rather atypical of the recording. As soon as I heard the opening bars in the record shop I knew that I would end up buying it. 'Red Song' (which closed the live set which I saw) opens the broader direction of the album using as it does diverse samples from Verdi and Byelorussian and Tartar music. Elsewhere there are samples from Persian classical and Yemenite Jewish music. For some much of the remainder of the album won't be immediately easy on the ear. 'Upon This Rock' showcases the magnificent vocal techniques of Iranian Bakhtiara-born, Parvin Cox. Her voice and the string section (viola, violin and cello) provide perfect complements to one another on this spiritually uplifting track. Like 'Butterfly Song', 'Yellow Fever Psalm' has its lead vocal sung by Melanie Pappenheim - backwards. The original words are in English and by James Stanley Gilbert and it is from here that the album actually takes it name. Again, the strings could have been lifted from a formal concerto and make this one of the most impressive tracks on the whole album.
Syrian-born, Abdullah Chhadeh plays qanun for the Ensemble and he is particularly evident on 'Hell, Fire and Damnation' giving the music an almost mythical construct of the Middle Eastern world and balances the mediaeval sound of Harvey Brough's psaltery and Melanie's Latin vocal. According to concert notes he is actually redesigned the instrument for Western-style music. The album also features the quite captivating voice of the Sri Lankan Tamil musician, Manickan Yogeswaran. There is a calm power in his voice which is awkward to describe unless you have seen him perform. Yogeswaran has sung Carnatic and Tamil music in devotional and concert settings both as a soloist and in international collaborations. He raises one arm in the air and his voice simply seems to flow out from within him. The final track on the album, 'Saffron' will be familiar to anyone who watched BBC's 'In A Land of Plenty'. The mixture of traditions, stunning vocals and driving rhythms is perhaps best exemplified by 'Take Off Your Veil', and perhaps the most lovely string arrangements are on 'The Last Day'.
Live performances on tour are accompanied by Yugosalv-born artist, Dragan Aleksic's film about the transience of life, 'Memories of a Passerby' which concludes with sequences of the artist's wax effigy on fire - part of a joint project with Pook performed in Venice last year - and something similar on a smaller scale on stage. The album's artwork uses motifs from the film. Together the music becomes the driver of a truly unique multimedia experience. If you get a chance to experience this live, don't hesitate! Aleksic is also credited with 'chest drumming' on 'Take Off Your Veil'.
There is a fuller string sound on 'Untold Things' than on Jocelyn Pook's more stripped-down, emptier-sounding previous album, 'Flood' and the overall mood of the music veers less towards melancholy (although Flood is also a brilliant album featuring tracks which were used in Kubrick's last film ' Eyes Wide Shut'). Having literally created a new language for song, the music itself speaks its own language which nobody has formally learned and yet which can be intuitively understood. I should really mention everyone involved with the Ensemble by name as I have rarely seen so many uniquely talented artists come together in one place. If you want to experiment with one album of which you have little previous knowledge, make it this one as you will either fall in love with it or loathe it. If you are interested in other cultures, respond to a mystical, ethereal sound and appreciate exquisite vocals and string instrumentation, it will surely be the former.
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on 23 December 2001
Consider a mix of celtic and eastern music...simply exquisite. I have no hesitation is recommending this to anyone who wants to sit back, relax and be taken over by the music. Check out Yellow Fever, how does someone sing backwards and still appear tuneful?
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on 20 February 2004
I bought the CD for the track Dyonisus which features in the Gangs of New York CD (which I strongly recommend as well!)& I wasn't disappointed. The music is very unusual and soothing, I love to listen to it after a hard day at work, I think it works well as a background music too, and it will definitely be a talking point if you play it while you have some guests! Thumbs up for this brilliant music!
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on 8 June 2011
Today Jocelyn Pook has a high profile in the States where she became a new name after her previously recorded music was used in the film Eyes Wide Shut.
Obviously very lttle of her was issued in the States under her own name but there's plenty of it as a session musician.
So heres some info
her first commision after leaving the Guildhall was for the Sheffield band ABC but she was uncredited except for the movie Mantrap where she's seen in a sequence where the band audition.After this came a whole heap of sessions for any Indie bands who wanted string players hence the Elektra Strings who made a CD for Sonia Slaney's Village Life label called Meeting Electra.And her recordings for a label called Unknown Public which are today impossible to find
Running concurrently with all this was her work with Anne Stephenson and Audrey Riley for Virginia Astley who they appeared live with.
Her own CDs began in the 90s with Deluge as she was doing music for the television.And one of the tracks from Deluge was used by Orange Phones for a commecial-this was her reinterpretation of Kathleen Ferrier's Blow the Wind Southerly the Blackburn born contralto who was a star before she was born in 1960.
Her producer Harvey Brough was once in an Indie band called Harvey & the Wallbangers and Melanie Oppenheim in her ensemble through 3 CDs was in the Shopping Trolley.
Not even her website mentions all her sessions and probably don't even remember them but here's a few more:
Siouxsie & the Banshees,The Veil (Indie band from Stoke On Trent),the Communards (she and the other 2 girls of the time were made honorary Communards),This Mortal Coil,Eddi Reader,Regular Music 2,the High Llamas and even Dire Straits who they appeared with at the Royal Albert Hall in 1996 with the recordings issued on the double CD as CD 2 Sultans Of Swing-Limited Edition.(This was actually made for U S TV)
And the Electra Strings appeared many times on Jools Holland's Later the recordings issued on Later-Brit Beat.Not forgetting her work for the film Jude (Thomas Hardy) and Derek Jarman's The Last of England though I might have forgotten a few others
Wonder she had the time
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I had never heard of Jocelyn Pook, till a friend sent me a link to a YouTube video of a piece of `sacred style' Western choral singing composed by her, very much in Early Music polyphony mode (which I love) However I also love the strange atonal, dissonant singing and ululations of Arabic music. And it turns out that Ms Pook, best known for film and TV sound tracks, (Eyes Wide Shut, by all accounts propelled her to a wider audience) works with a fusion of Western classical, and strands of world music which clearly pull in threads from the Balkans, the Middle East, India, and she also incorporates more modern, electronic techniques - reverb, sampled sounds. And then there is a rich and sumptuous vein of high romantic and lyrical use of Western classical strings, lush and emotional. And some up-beat, tabla driven rhythmic numbers, which invite the listener to groove, move and sway

This shouldn't really work, somehow it does! For an impressively detailed track by track review, see the top listed Spotlight review - the big disadvantage of mp3 downloads, is all the missing info you'd get with the CD sleeve insert! Personally I found the more dance upbeat numbers didn't work quite as alluringly as the other tracks, missing the stranger, more unusual quality of the other, intensely emotional tracks, hence I have pulled back from 5 stars. But I am busily listening to more of Ms Pook!
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on 3 October 2001
This work is a blend of west and east, and works very well. The use of orchestral instruments is well judged and complements the tones taken from the eastern samples.
This is a pleasant and relaxing work, without being sleepy, and introduces unfamiliar but welcome sounds in a well-crafted way.
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VINE VOICEon 11 November 2013
I bought this after enjoying the soundtrack to Habitación en Roma, written by Jocelyn Pook.

I enjoyed this too, but it's tricky stuff to categorise and say what it's 'like'; think programme music, ebbing and flowing sound-scapes, sustained chords, wordless chanting, touch of new-age and world musicwith unusual instrumentation. "Song to the Siren" by This Mortal Coil came to mind, also Kate Bush in "The Dreaming".

It's certainly not for everyone, but sit in a darkened room with candles and some mood-altering drugs (red wine for me, officer!) it's rather wonderful.
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on 5 February 2009
it s a master piece for people who love music. songs are all different, but still keep you in a spiritual mood. there s world music feeling with voices that are unic, and the mixture of it takes you into a very mystical journey. fabulous to drive in ireland listening to it, seeing wild landscapes, or stuck in traffic jam or sorrows, you ll be lifted up. Brilliant.
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on 6 September 2013
This is the third Jocelyn Pook CD I have now. It is wonderful as are the others. It arrived very quickly with a lovely little hand written note from the seller. I couldn't be happier with CD.
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on 26 December 2015
If you like careful listening, this album is definitely worth the effort.
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