In this day and age, artists are constantly repurposing existing materials in new and creative ways. Reuse, rework, recycle, rethink, reconstruct, rebuild, or—if you’re a musician—remix. But multi-instrumentalist and composer Joe Acheson is interested in a lot more than just remixing—he’s interested in reorchestrating.
Acheson is the mastermind behind Hidden Orchestra, a solo studio project which synthesizes classical, electronic, and experimental music into multifaceted electroacoustic soundscapes. Hidden Orchestra utilizes all aspects of Acheson’s eclectic musical background: composing and performing classical music, DJing, producing, improvising, and playing in stylistically diverse bands and ensembles.
Though Acheson writes and produces all the music for Hidden Orchestra (in addition to playing bass), the live band also features Poppy Ackroyd on keyboard and violin, Tim Lane and Jamie Graham on drums, and numerous other live guests and recording artists.
Hidden Orchestra’s latest album, titled “Reorchestrations,” combines the delicate textures of classical with the beat-driven bass of electronica and the fearless musical exploration of avant-garde. Released on Denovali Records, the album uses works by classical, experimental, and folk musicians as source material which Acheson then intricately reworks with his signature composition and production techniques.
But unlike many remixes, Acheson’s “Reorchestrations” leaves each original track almost entirely intact. Instead of chopping up the originals and turning them into synth-heavy, bass-driven dance numbers, Acheson takes a more compositionally meticulous approach. He adds layers of rhythms and pitches which expand the musical textures and alter the harmonies of the original pieces, thus reinterpreting each work as a unique arrangement for his Hidden Orchestra.
The album begins with his reinterpretation of fellow labelmates Piano Interrupted’s delicate and dreamlike “Cross Hands.” He takes the duo’s electro-minimalist creation and infuses it with dynamic drum grooves, bouncy basslines, and bigger, broader sonic textures.
Next on the album is an imaginative reinvention of the Clarinet Factory’s snazzy, jazzy “5 Steps.” Acheson takes the circling minimalism of the original piece and propels it forward with double drumlines and denser musical textures, often disguising the original melodic motives in unexpected musical voices.
The third track on the album is a double-remix of another Denovali artist and fellow bandmate: Poppy Ackroyd. “Lyre Ground” features two of Ackroyd’s melodic, multi-tracked pieces transformed into a single soundscape, with added metallic drums and ambient field recordings giving her delicate, lyrical melodies an industrial tinge.
Folk harp and percussion duo Macmaster/Hay’s “Thograinn Thograinn” is next to be reorchestrated. Acheson gives a modern twist to the traditional Gaelic folk song, gradually transforming the warm vocals and rich rhythmic layers into an increasingly hypnotic and percussive sound world.
Hidden Orchestra collaborator and occasional live guest clarinetist Tomáš Dvořák (more commonly known by his stage name Floex) also appears on the album. Acheson reimagines his atmospheric “Saturnin Fire and the Restless Ocean” as an electro-orchestral dreamland.
Speaking of electroacoustic, Acheson’s reorchestration of Russian producer Long Arm’s vintage jazz-infused mashup “Sleep Key” is utterly dazzling. The mesmerizing musical texture samples everything from smooth vocals to sax solos and jazzy piano riffs over a sparkling drumline.
The album concludes with a Hidden Orchestra remix of the Liverpool band Kinetic Fallacy. The energetic, drum-driven electroacoustic track is aptly titled “The Revival,” possibly because Kinetic Fallacy disbanded before the remix was released.
But the title also serves another important purpose: it reminds us that as we continue pushing the boundaries of the classical music tradition, there is always room to revive, recreate, and reorchestrate the music that most inspires us.