There aren’t many artists I can say are as creative and original within their production of music as Joe Acheson, the man behind the solo music project Hidden Orchestra. It doesn’t come easy to stick Hidden Orchestra under just one or two genres as the project covers a range of sounds from Intelligent Dance Music to Reggae and Dub, to even bird sounds (if you can call that a genre). Acheson’s debut album Night Walks was a massive hit when it was released back in 2010, receiving the title of Album of the Month at BBC Radio 1, and since he has played 250 shows in over 30 countries. His energy and love for what he does seems clear, and those numbers will continue to rise as he tells me he’s off to Cologne tomorrow, the first of 18 shows in just 20 days! The tour is for his newest album Dawn Chorus, which is surrounded by themes of the morning bird songs.
Acheson explains to me that this album is more autobiographical than the others before. Recordings he’s made whilst travelling and touring, music from over 20 years ago, from school and even some samples from his GCSE composition are just some of the authentic, and slightly vintage sounds we’ll be hearing. Music and Acheson go way back, with the musician remembering that he wanted to be a composer and the youthful age of 6. He would creatively experiment with his cassette player
and chords on the piano to put together different sounds. Not only is Joe intelligent with putting music together, but he can play many instruments too. I can help, but be fascinated when he tells me he can play the bassoon – I’ve never met anyone who can play it – the organ, the guitar, bass, double bass and that’s not even all of them. A Turkish double-reed pipe is just one of the new addition he’s added to his collection of obscure instruments.
I ask Joe how exactly he would make a typical track. The name Hidden Orchestra, gives away that there will be many sounds within it, however it is a lot more complex and time consuming than you’d imagine. He uses the track he’s now working on as an example: “I found a box of smashed mirrors and I just spent a while tipping it around, listening to it back and then picking out some nice little rhythms”. He then adds a glockenspiel, wind chimes and a clarinet player he liked the sound of helped him out in the studio too. Then he’ll go back through his archives and put in some old melodies and sounds. Then, there you have it… almost anyway, with lots of editing and so on, it doesn’t sound easy, but its definitely unique. He seems to look at music very logically, which is interesting, almost like a puzzle or maths equation.
The unfortunate thing about this lengthy process, one which clearly requires a sort of natural musical knack for, is that he explains how he won’t be making another album as it’s takes far too long. However, he will continue making EP’s once he’s had a well-deserved break from his tour, as I learn that music is heading in this direction anyhow with singles being more popular than albums with the public more so these days. Inspiration is found almost anywhere for the artist, whether it be from a broken extractor fan or sounds of rain and traffic. Long walks in the countryside at night also makes for good components to his music. He tells me he has no specific influences, but an accumulation of music he’s grew up with over the years, whether that be classical or rock music. What makes his sound different is that they’re not lyrically driven or based on a certain theme, but “as the songs are written over a long period of time, they’re filled with emotion and different moods, not one specifically”. “It’s important there are people pushing the boundaries and trying new ideas” something that Acheson and his Hidden Orchestra have excelled at ever since their inception. Despite the ever changing, and often market driven world of music, it doesn’t seem that Joe has any desire to stray from what he does best. And evidently, he doesn’t need to.
Hidden Orchestra plays the Attenborough Centre for the creative Arts on Sat 9 Dec 2017
His album Dawn Chorus is available now via Tru Thoughts
Image by Maxim Abrossimow