One of the more popular releases on Brian Eno's experimental Obscure label, Music From the Penguin Cafe is the 1976 debut of composer-multi-instrumentalist Simon Jeffes's Penguin Cafe Orchestra. While suffering from food poisoning in the south of France, Jeffes feverishly imagined "wild, free, mountain people creating sounds of a subtle dreamlike quality." Thus inspired, his music for electric guitar, cello, electric piano and violin sounds like a beautifully-updated take on Johann Pachelbel's baroque compositions.
Although it clocks in at "Hey Jude" length, "Penguin Cafe Single" is an evocative classical gas of a tune, and a perfect miniature of Jeffes's spiritual sensibility. It sets the scene for "Zopf," a seven-part invention with at least two sections — "From the Colonies (for N.R.)" and "In a Sidney Hotel" — that bear more than a faint resemblance to Eno himself. The latter especially, with its Japanese evocation of a "double suicide," resembles an Another Green World outtake. At nearly 12 minutes, "The Sound of Someone You Love Who's Going Away and It Doesn't Matter" extends a sweet, simple melody to just the point of diminishing returns. Jeffes's lovely yet limited bag of tricks only threatens to wear out its welcome around the time "Chartered Flight" takes off.