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Andrew Poppy - Reviews 


What the press has to say about Andrew Poppy's work:

"Strongly rhythmic and un-hackneyed he is certain to be one of the most exciting British composers of the 1990's."
BRIAN MORTON : CONTEMPORARY COMPOSERS

CADENZA (82)
"The finest products of the minimalist mentality - Reich's Music for 18 musicians Riley's exquisitely impure undertakings, Glenn Branca's tumultuous The Ascension - rise above the cold consideration of mechanics and draws the listener into the realms of ecstasy. Cadenza is the track in question a mesmerising feature for two pianos that rise and dip like a tea clipper in a high wind. The effect is breath-taking; it's superb enough to make me look forward with optimism to future releases."
LYNDEN BARBER : MELODY MAKER

THE AMUSEMENT (86)
"The obvious successor to The Art of Noise in this modern composers forceful dynamic production. Looping rhythms and dramatic keyboards make it captivating and commercial enough to make its mark besides being an impressive piece."
DAVE HENDERSON : MUSIC WEEK

POEMS AND TOCCATAS (91)
"The best things I heard (at the Huddersfield Festival) were a miniature by James MacMillian and Andrew Poppy's inventively spare and varied Poems and Toccatas"
NICHOLAS KENYON : OBSERVER

THE SONGS OF THE CLAY PEOPLE (84)
"Noise of industrial labour is submerged in Andrew Poppy's music as tremendous gathering melange of piano then brass and synthesiser, finally electric guitar in great slabs of impersonal, repetitive throbbing sound. A scenario of mixed gestures, solo melancholy and frantic deshabillement.... The Songs of the Clay People remembered by a child, are lost, fleeting renascent in a grey metropolis of granite rooms.... where excitement is provided by music which really did strike me as being of exceptional merit"
MICHAEL COVENEY FINANCIAL TIMES

THE SONGS OF THE CLAY PEOPLE (84)
"A ritual for three performers, offstage voices and musique concrete. The effect is one of animated hallucination on which Balthus and Francis Bacon might have collaborated: arrogant ascetic, utterly sincere."
JOHN PETER : SUNDAY TIMES

URANIUM MINERS (89)
"Impressively full of emotional shrapnel."
PAUL DRIVER : SUNDAY TIMES

URANIUM MINERS (89)
"His music is consistently trenchant and telling."
MEIRION BOWEN : GUARDIAN

BABY DOLL (93)
"The ideal composer to turn Tennessee Williams screen play Baby Doll into an opera would be an American Janacek and Andrew Poppy comes near to it in the best moments: strong on atmosphere (a lot of sultry Southern blue notes) and punchily abbreviated in its story-telling."
MICHAEL JOHN WHITE : THE INDEPENDENT

BABY DOLL (93)
"A gift for creating atmosphere the scores virtue lies in the deceptively languid way it can build up an insidious tension."
MARTIN HOYLE : THE TIMES

BABY DOLL (93)
"A gripping and unusual evening. Echoes of jazzy Gershwin , traces of Stravinsky....not a moment of it is dull and several sequences are startling."
GERALD KAUFMAN : THE SUNDAY EXPRESS

BABY DOLL (93)
"Poppy was never solely concerned with pure minimalism and he has now developed a style of enviable flexibility, fusing a range of so called 'serious' and 'popular' sources and allowing each to emerge as appropriate."
KEITH POTTER: THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

HORN HORN (97)
"Fulfilling all the Liverpool's requirements of new music - concerted saxophone sound, jazz rhythms allied with minimalist repetition, a smart title - Andrew Poppy's Horn Horn was treated with all due cordiality on its introduction at the Philharmonia hall .....and was consistently entertaining as a study in the comparability of two alto saxophonist. Harnessed together much of the time in rhythmic if not harmonic unison, John Harle and Simon Haram were each allowed the occasional opportunity to emerge on a comparatively thoughtful solo line from their joint virtuoso endeavours..they usefully offset the heavy industrial activity which, between the deceptive opening and closing bars characterises the score as a whole. An admirably high-energy all-or-nothing performance"
GERALD LARNER: THE TIMES

TIME AT REST DEVOURING ITS SECRET (00)
"The light and lean grandeur of the orchestration recalls Takemitsu....a kind of bitter sweet, melancholy ecstasy that plays games with time/space and stasis/movement. Bewitching, beautifully crafted and highly addictive"
CHRIS BLACKFORD: THE WIRE

Claudia Brücken and Andrew Poppy - ANOTHER LANGUAGE (2005)
(There There Records) www.theremusic.com

"For an art form whose supposed pinnacle captures The Moment—The Here And Now—the temptation for pop music to look back at itself has been virtually Orphean in its irresistibility. From McCartney’s penchant for vaudeville pastiche to progressive rock’s hamfisted appropriation of neoclassical formalism to the Sex Pistols’ nihilist desecration of “Rock Around the Clock,” such perennial gazing in the rearview has always carried the whiff of fatalistic overtones—a tacit admission that the “true” definitive statements—from Bruckner to Berlin to Berry—had already been made. Whether they were to be developed or destroyed—well, that was another story.

On Trevor Horn’s ambitious Zang Tuum Tumb imprint in the 1980’s, Claudia Brücken and Andrew Poppy had ample opportunity for mythmaking and deconstruction alike. As lead singer of German synth-outfit Propaganda (and later as one half of Act, with Thomas Leer), Brücken gave voice to Horn’s ongoing obsession with Abba, fashioning the brilliant A Secret Wish, a masterpiece of baroque synth-pop that was equal parts pop art and Josef K-inspired post-punk. The pertly-named Poppy was barking up another, though not unrelated tree; a formally trained composer, he flaunted a remarkable gift for texture within polyrhythmic composition on two predominantly orchestral ZTT releases (The Beating of Wings and Alphabed), pitting him somewhere between the hardcore European minimalist school led by Louis Andriessen and early Cabaret Voltaire.

Given such credentials, it may come as a surprise that Another Language is neither synth-driven nor orchestral, but rather a sparsely arranged collection of covers. Of course, there have been few cover sets like this; even at their most willfully postmodern, Bryan Ferry or Tom Jones never tackled songwriters like Billy Mackenzie, Radiohead and Elvis all in a single bound, while still making room for a nice Franz Schubert lied. For all the compositional diversity, however, Another Language deftly steers clear of outright eclecticism, largely because if the choice of material is generally inspired (MacKenzie’s “Breakfast”, McAlmont & Butler’s “You Do”), the performances are equally so.

But it’s when the two meet that the real fireworks go off. Where the Broadway flourish of David Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday” has long been screaming for the epic piano treatment it receives here, Frank Black’s “White Noise Maker” certainly hasn’t. And yet here the latter song—track nineteen on the hit-and-miss Teenager of the Year—is positively transformed into a marvel of polytonal and melodic innovation—the kind of revelation that sends the listener back to the original wondering what they’d been missing. That sense of vitality pervades Another Language; even when it trends toward the obvious, an excerpt from Schubert’s bleak song-cycle, Die Winterreise, Poppy twists convention, in this instance performing the accompaniment not on piano, but guitar.

Indeed, the record is a defining moment for the composer/arranger. Long exiled to the contemporary concert music world with only the occasional pop string arrangement for the likes of The The, Poppy handles the disparate pop material with a genuine verve—as if deprived of his beloved orchestra, he were determined to wring every last melody and harmony from his solitary instrument. Particularly on the album’s centerpiece, a reflective take on Kate Bush’s euphoric “Running Up That Hill, ” Poppy’s accompaniment supports Brücken’s cool alto with a supple lyricism, its chromatic use of parallel fourths drawing out of the song a melancholy only hinted at by the programmed Fairlight textures of the original.

Yet only with Another Language’s concluding track, Elvis Presley’s “Wooden Heart,” does the title of the record become clear. As Brücken sings the final verse of the childlike melody in German, Poppy comps along on Fender Rhodes, interpreting the Fifties pop standard the composer once acknowledged was his “first clear musical memory as a child.” It’s a moving moment—one that reminds how sometimes only when speaking in something other than our native tongue do we really have anything to say."

For a complete interview with Andrew, go here.

Matthew Weiner: Stylus Magazine

Andrew Poppy - ANDREW POPPY ON ZTT (2005)

A mighty wind

Despite his reputation as a minimalist, Andrew Poppy gives you plenty of bang for your buck on his ZTT works

John L Walters
Friday July 1, 2005

Guardian

If you're into contemporary composition, the bargain of the week has to be Andrew Poppy on Zang Tuum Tumb (ZTT 3CD, £15.99), which collects Poppy's 1980s albums The Beating of Wings and Alphabed together with a third, unreleased album and various odds and ends. You get plenty of notes for your money, too: despite Poppy's reputation as a minimalist, his best pieces are gloriously abundant in cascading cycles of notes and noises, with satisfying, circular chord sequences, using very big ensembles and big-sounding virtual ensembles with keyboards and samplers.

Poppy studied music at Goldsmith's, where he co-founded Regular Music. Later, he was a key member of the Lost Jockey. By signing to Trevor Horn's ZTT label, Poppy made some interesting lateral moves. For one thing, it meant that his music was beautifully recorded, using the state- of-the-art studios. It also promoted Poppy's oeuvre to a style-conscious, Face-reading audience, complete with detailed art direction, enigmatic notes and Anton Corbijn portraits.

This re-alignment cut both ways, and may have distanced Poppy from the serious recognition now handed out to his less clued-up contemporaries. Yet what you hear in Poppy's music, particularly in key works such as 32 Frames for Amplified Orchestra and Cadenza for Piano and Electric Piano, is a keen ear for the large-scale, compositional use of timbre - the qualities that drew him to the cutting edge technology of ZTT's studio-based culture. It's even there in his theme tune for The Tube, which always sounded huge compared to electro-TV music.

What Poppy brought to ZTT - a label that didn't need much prompting to take itself seriously - was some genuinely good and serious work. His music's purpose is often revealed more effectively through the multitracked recording process. Younger composers may take this for granted, working out their masterpieces on PCs, but Poppy got there first.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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Created by Keesjan van Bunningen. Last modified on August 21, 2005