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Professor Penguin – Planes

March 11, 2012

Let me start by making a declaration of pecuniary interest here. I just happen to be the cousin of the person I’m going to write about. Therefore, you might reasonably ask, whether I am in a position to deliver a balanced and unbiased critique of Professor Penguin’s début album Planes. Put it this way, I could have said nothing and you wouldn’t have been any the wiser, however, my own conscience and sense of integrity prevents me from keeping that kind of information under wraps. Besides, I think I’m big enough, old enough and ugly enough to handle getting chewed out by Auntie Lizzie should I say something untoward.

So, as always, feel free to take what I have to say with a pinch of salt.

Whether Professor Penguin has any more right to work in a university than Professor Green is a matter of conjecture. If you are reading this because you are a fan of the latter and think you might be about to discover something similar, let me save you some time and suggest courteously that you return now from whence you came. There is nothing for you here.

The timing of the release of Planes on April 9th should be a stroke of genius. I use the conditional because the British weather is famed for being fickle. What we ought to be able to expect, once the clocks have denied us an hour’s sleep are longer evenings and days where clouds race chariot-like across a breezy, blue sky, warm enough to enjoy the fresh outdoors; not so hot that you’d get burnt. From the opening, frenetic notes of Pilot to the gentle fade of Puzzle Pieces, Professor Penguin chauffeurs the listener through the English countryside in an open-top, vintage car serenely enough to marvel at the rolling hills and greenery, occasionally putting his foot down to allow the passenger the thrill of exhilaration as the wind ruffles their hair.

Professor Penguin. Left to right, Joe Reeeve, James Nall, Jonny Abraham, John Moore, Toby Street, Dan Jones & Rich Legate.

The beauty of the album as a whole is that it is effortless. It contains a sense of space that evokes a feeling of meandering nature and a warmth that is, at times, disarmingly relaxing and almost soporific. There is a warmth generated through a subtle use of horns and sumptuous string arrangements. And I found myself intrigued by a quality in the recording that can fool you into believing that you are listening to vinyl. The Professor’s vocals range from a vulnerable and wavering falsetto to a rich and honeyed baritone. Vocal harmonies are, at times, almost indistinguishable from horn parts, such is the way they are interwoven with the music. But now we’re going to get onto the really clever part.

Planes has a stripped back sound. There aren’t any superfluous effects or enhancements. In each and every track there is a minimalism, the like of which I have not heard since The xx’s own début (xx, Young Turks 2009). What my spheniscine relative achieves is a similar, sophisticated simplicity and there are very few young musicians that have the ability, let alone the confidence, to let the music do all the work. Planes is a mood album. It will take you to places in your imagination effortlessly. And if I had to describe Planes with one word , it would be effortless. The kind of album you could listen to on a Sunday morning with a black coffee or late at night with a large glass of something red. It is also what is known in the trade as a ‘grower’.

Pernickety, pernicious and pedantic types might pick about all of the song titles begin with ‘P’. Piffle and poppycock! I do, however, think the album deserves better artwork. The cover is a logo that does very little to illustrate the mood that Planes evokes. Have a listen. I think you’ll see what I mean.

Pirates – single released 19th March 2012

Planes is released on 9th April 2012

Professor Penguin myspace page

And if Auntie Lizzie has a problem with any of this, she knows where to find me.



From → devilsaardvark, Music

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