Magical Beautiful – Double Moon

Double Moon comes off the final release from Tyson Torstenson’s art rock project Magical Beautiful entitled Discover Death. Torstensen has been active in the experimental music scene in Chicago since the early 2000s, and he began releasing material under the name Magical Beautiful (along with an array of collaborators) in 2005 with a self-titled release coming in 2006. That first record featured covers/re-workings of songs by artists like Bjork and Joe Meek and had Torstensen performing, mixing, and mastering the release himself. On subsequent Magical Beautiful releases, he would enlist other Chicago artists like Nick Broste, Alance Ward, and Peter Andreadis in various roles. In addition to Magical Beautiful, Torstensen records ambient music with Broste under the name Gaspra and plays bass with the group Axis:Sova. For a full list of his projects, check out his website. The whole record is a really great and it’s free to download on Bandcamp, so if you dig Double Moon I’d encourage you to listen to the rest.

Penguin Cafe Orchestra – In the Back of a Taxi

Penguin Cafe Orchestra is a collective musical project that was founded and anchored by Simon Jeffes and Helen Liebmann. Their first record, Music from the Penguin Cafe was released on Brian Eno’s Obscure Records int 1976 and gave their first public performance in support of that record by opening for Kraftwerk. According to his son, Jeffes claimed that the inciting incident for the Penguin Cafe was a fever dream where he pictured

a nightmare vision of the near future – where everyone lived in big concrete blocks and spent their lives looking into screens. There was a big camera in the corner of everyone’s room, an eye looking down at them. In one room there was a couple making love lovelessly, while in another there was a musician sat at a vast array of equipment but with headphones on so there was no actual music in the room. This was a very disconnected de-humanising world that people had made for themselves…
However you could reject that and look further afield, and if you went down this dusty road you would eventually find a ramshackle old building with noise and light pouring out into the dark. It’s a place you just fundamentally want to go into, and this is the Penguin Cafe.

Blending Jeffes’ and Liebmann’s classical experience with rock music, and an interest in non-Western rhythms and instrumentations, the Penguin Cafe Orchestra released records regularly throughout the 1980s, albeit with a rotating list of members. “In the Back of a Taxi” was comes off their 1984 release Broadcasting From Home, which features perhaps their best known track “Music for a Found Harmonium,” which has been covered many times and featured in television, movies, and advertisements. Some notable appearances include Napoleon Dynamite, She’s Having a Baby, Capitalism: A Love Story, and, ironically enough, advertisements for major companies like Ford and Hewlett Packard. You can watch a 1989 performance of “Music for a Found Harmonium” at the BBC here.

Jeffes passed away in 1997 from a brain tumor, but members of the group have continued performing Penguin Cafe Orchestra material under the name The Anteaters while Simon Jeffes’ son Arthur has formed his own group called the Penguin Cafe.