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Paraorchestra, with Brett Anderson and Charles Hazlewood Announce Quietly Life-Affirming ‘DEATH SONGBOOK’ Collaborative Album

Paraorchestra, with Brett Anderson and Charles Hazlewood, have announced ‘Death Songbook’, a collaborative 12-track genre-spanning album featuring inventive takes on timeless songs of love, loss and transendence by artists including, Echo & The Bunnymen, Mercury Rev, Japan, Black, Depeche Mode, Skeeter Davis, Jacques Brel and Suede. The album and is due for release on 19th April 2024 via World Circuit / BMG and includes special guest turns from Nadine Shah, Gwenno, Seb Rochford (Sons of Kemet), Adrian Utley (Portishead).

During the pandemic, Charles Hazlewood (founder and Artistic Director of the pioneering Paraorchestra, the award-winning conductor who has led some of the world’s most celebrated orchestras, and Sky Arts’ Ambassador for Music) was struck by the idea of an album of “very delicate re-imaginings” of some of the most morbidly beautiful and poignantly sombre songs, entitled ‘Death Songbook’. Charles discussed the idea with friend Brett Anderson of Suede, who found it a concept close to his heart, agreeing to help curate and sing across the album’s 12 songs. “The only rule,” Charles says, “is that all the songs have to have a relationship to death or the death of love.”

Brett Anderson’s vocal performances, by turns chilling, passionate and wracked with desolation, lend a unique dark magic to the Paraorchestra’s re-imaginings. Articulated by composer/orchestrator Charlotte Harding, each composition offers little by way of adornment, instead twisting and reconstructing the songs. Released today, the album’s opening track, Echo & The Bunnymen’s ‘The Killing Moon’, becomes an unsettling concoction of shivering strings and stalking electric guitar (a live version is included at the end of this article).

Commenting on Hazlewoods idea, Anderson said, “I loved the idea of curating a suite of songs about loss and sadness and regret. I’ve always found happy songs depressing, it’s been the murkier themes that have somehow sounded more joyous to me. Songs about doubt and fear and grief confront feelings we all struggle with, so to know that we are not alone in that fight can be quietly life-affirming.”

Paraorchestra recorded the majority of the ‘Death Songbook’ album live in an afternoon at the peak of lockdown, socially distanced across Europe’s largest opera stage – the Donald Gordon Theatre at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff. The project returned to the Wales Millennium Centre for a live performance in October 2022, where they recorded three additional songs.

Fans now have the chance to experience ‘Death Songbook’ live, as the album was recorded, first hand. Two special live performances will accompany the album’s release, firstly at London’s Roundhouse on 24th April, followed by a show at Manchester’s Aviva Studios, home of Factory International on 26th April. Last remaining tickets are available here.

Paraorchestra is the world’s only ensemble consisting of both professional disabled and non-disabled musicians playing an unconventional mix of traditional orchestral, acoustic, and electronic instruments and using assistive technology. The intention of this radical group is to reimagine what an orchestra – and “classical music” itself – can be in 2024. 

‘Death Songbook’ is due for release via World Circuit / BMG on April 19th. Pre-order the album here.

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