Untold Things

Jocelyn Pook, 2013

The Real World Gold version of Untold Things includes two bonus tracks: Adam's Lullaby and Ave Maria, sung by Natacha Atlas.

"I wanted Untold Things to reflect the live work I'd been at the time," says the classically trained, thirty-something Londoner. Pook sees the recording as a natural progression from her long association with Real World, where she'd been a keen participant in the legendary creative jams that are Recording Weeks and worked as a string player and arranger for Peter Gabriel. (As a former member of The Communards and co-founder of the all-female sextet Electra Strings she has also helped flesh out the sounds of PJ Harvey, Paul Weller, Morrissey, Nick Cave and Siouxsie Sioux).

Where her previous albums, 1997's 'Deluge' and 1999's 'Flood', were written specifically for theatre and film - the former for Canadian dance company O Vertigo, the latter for Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut' - 'Untold Things' is very much Pook's own creative vision. Encouraged by Real World's penchant for blurring boundaries, she channelled her trademark combination of classicism and innovation into an exhilarating gem of an album, one which pulls off that rare coup of putting listeners in touch with their deeper feelings. 'Untold Things' will, no doubt, be the source of many an epiphany. You could say that it has a spiritual, even magical, quality, as befits one who is constantly changing artistic shape - and whose surname is the Celtic word for fairy.

Pook's soft speech, translucent skin and Pre-Raphaelite curls might fit the stereotype of a classical musician (and, if you like, a latter-day Titania), but they belie a background in performance-based work that's seen her create 'atmospheres' from found objects like answer-machine messages and corrugated iron. And though Pook insists she is proudly rooted in the formal, classical music tradition, she still hankers after the cutting edge. Her influences - Laurie Anderson, Steve Reich, Holger Czukay and her friend Michael Nyman - are also shared by her like-minded ensemble. "Most of my string section are friends who go way back and who, like me, are also composers. I tend to work with people I've got chemistry with and then build around what they play. That means all sorts of instruments and voices creep in."

"There's a juxtaposition of vocal styles," states Pook, who has always favoured eccentric opposites. On 'Untold Things', she pits her English choral plainsong and early music leanings against multi-ethnic traditions, and offsets the spacious, tranquil nature of some tracks with the pulsing, dervish-style rhythms of others. It turns out the vocals are not words at all. "Because words are so incredibly powerful," Pook explains, "I tend not to use them. I prefer to treat voices like instruments. So we've used a made up language on two of the songs; there's one piece which developed from a phrase Parvin Cox once sang to me over the phone. On others I've recorded texts backwards, because I love the strange, kind of uneasy quality you get. I find it really peaceful."

'Saffron' is the title track for 'In A Land of Plenty', a major new BBC TV drama series which aired at the time of the album's release. "It's about a family who are my generation, born in the Sixties and growing up into the present day. It's very beautifully shot, very impressionistic, which is unusual for television" Pook states. But it started out as a poem written by a mother for her daughter, its lyrics reversed by Pook and Pappenheim before being featured in a short dance film. All of the songs on 'Untold Things' have been reshaped and sculpted to perfection. Or at the very least, as near to it as Pook will admit.

"I could go on fiddling with all these pieces for years," she grins. "But with what I've learnt over the past year, especially from doing 'Eyes Wide Shut', I've been able to go back and rework some of them. I'm more confident in what I'm doing now, which has really helped me to develop. And Stanley (Kubrick) was just so amazingly positive and flattering about my music. The experience of working with him was truly powerful."

"I'm not somebody who conceptualises," she offers. "I just do it and see the connections afterwards. I know people will think there's a religious element to this, which isn't something I want to comment on. But I do think there's a sense of faith, of loss and yearning, which is inherent in the music. Hopefully, it moves you." And in keeping with her Celtic surname, Jocelyn Pook has made an album with translucent wings.

Reviews

  • Composer Jocelyn Pook is one of the great treasures of the music world. These 13 pieces, by turns poetic, spare, and expertly performed, create a seamless work, one that reflects different geographies and different histories of folk and classical music. But Pook's music is a music of connection, a bringing together of many different art forms and experiences. There is a deep spiritual element to all of her work, which is direct, heartfelt and honest without being deliberately naive or artificial. Allaboutjazz.com (Online)
  • Jocelyn Pook : Untold Things - CD £7.99 Pook is renowned as a soundtrack composer ("Eyes Wide Shut" and "In A Land Of Plenty" are two of her works), this is aradical departure for her as she explores the sounds and vocal performances from a wide variety of cultures. As Peter Gabriel said 'there is a warmth, openess and willingness to experiment-qualities not often found in classical players' in abundance here. Piccadilly Records (UK)
  • 'Lush, dark, spiritual, thickly textured and drawing freely from the music of many cultures and eras, Jocelyn Pook makes "world music" that isn't watered down crap and "ambient music" that has a pulse." Free Times (USA)
  • ...little-known but remarkable... Pook has a uniquely inviting sound that deserves to become widely known in America. Napra Review (USA)
  • '...she achieves an otherwordly ambiance.' Girlfriends (USA)
  • ...listen to Pook's blurring boundaries and densely atmospheric album sculpted to perfection. New Age Voice (USA)
  • ...a strangely peaceful and organic quality... ...that haunts the soul. Be warned: this is beautiful music for the brave. New Age Voice (USA)
  • ...The most beautiful moments are provided by the singers. Classically trained voices mingle with samples of Yemenite chants, and the striking tones of Iranian folk singer Parvin Cox and the classic Indian stylings of Manickam Yogeswaran. Untold Things is at times an intensely moving album. At others it can sound like a dreamy - if sophisticated - cousin of an Enya record. In short, both the strengths and the weaknesses of this style of crossover composition are to be found here in abundance. Songlines (UK)
  • Pook uses new-age and world-music signposts to seduce us... ...Pook takes listeners between worlds, effecting a surreal global classicism. Ethnic vocal samples mix with live voices, including the fragile soprano of Melanie Pappenheim, and are set in beds of strings and Western choirs. Pook uses new-age and world-music signposts to seduce us, including the gorgeous Gothic lament of 'Dionysus' that opens the album. Later, she reveals a sound that's more dangerous and rewarding. Billboard (UK)
  • ..Pook conjures an otherworldly ambience of poignant yearning and ecstatic release. Her milieu isn't walking the razor's edge between the sacred and profane; rather, she jubilantly leads listeners into profoundly moving side excursions deep into apocalyptic territory...Another neat trick is her use of vocalization. While many lyrics heard here sound like Latin or an obscure Laplander dialect, it turns out they are not words at all. Pook has created unique "languages" for several tunes, as well as recorded texts backwards for a strangely peaceful and organic quality that haunts the soul. Be warned: this is beautiful music for the brave. P.J Birosik Cd Now (USA)
  • Pook's compositional qualities shine through on this ultra dreamy and simply lovely album that should be put on whenever you feel the world needs to take a back seat for a while. 'Untold Things' is one of those albums whose Middle Eastern and ancient world inflections entwine majestically with classical and contemporary moodscapes, and as a whole, making this timeless music to dream too. Wax (UK)
  • 'Untold Things' is an astonishing mix of classicism and innovative choral work....it's hugely accessible. Well worth seeking out. Footloose (UK)
  • Combining classicism and ingenuity, she utilises a diverse selection of instruments as well as Iranian and Indian vocals to create a haunting sound. Western Mail (UK)
  • ...her most ambitious stand-alone work to date: 11 string-driven choral pieces (ululations and sampled Yemenite chants included) that inhabit the space between contemporary classical and new age - Ligeti meets Enya, sort of - with a wonderfully Byzantine choice of instrumentation (shaum, psaltery and qanun) too. Haunting but surprisingly accessible. *** Q Magazine (UK)
  • Her work glides effortlessly between classical, pop and world music, and incorporates elements of dance, film and theatre. Jocelyn Pook is what you might call a thoroughly Post-Modern composer...Like her fellow British composers Michael Nyman and Brian Eno, Pook, who trained as a viola player at the Guildhall, delights in breaching the boundaries between high art and popular culture. Her work glides effortlessly between classical, pop and world music, and incorporates elements of dance, film and theatre. The Times (UK)