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Songlines Magazine

✭✭✭✭✭ Review - March 2016

Selected as Top Of The World Album

Track featured on the magazine cover disc


"...The music is beautiful and measured, a real pleasure to settle in and get familiar of calm and balm bringing a measure if sympathy and healing to a strange and deadly world. "     Tim Cumming SONGLINES



fRoots Magazine

Full review in March 2016 issue 393


Pagoda Project are Paul Hutchinson (accordion), who many of you will know from Belshazzar’s Feast, and Karen Wimhurst (clarinets), a performer and composer who successfully works in a variety of avant garde and contemporary music circles. This is their debut release and it is a collection of original instrumentals, in the main written by Paul Hutchinson with two of the twelve tracks written by Wimhurst.


Much has been said about the English- ness of Hutchinson’s playing and, while there are many English sounding tracks on this CD, you could be forgiven for thinking that at times you were listening to Riccardo Tesi such is the European flavour of some of the music. Even when the compositions roll like the proverbial English road Karen Wimhurst’s counter-melodies and interjections pull the tunes into more international territory as, for example, on It Takes Three To Tango, which gives way to some very klezmer-sounding clarinet in the second half.


Those of you who are gripped by the fear when you read the words avant garde that this CD will comprise heavy overlays of squeaky-bonky music can rest assured. For most of the CD, Wimhurst discreetly keeps the clarinet parts in check... that said, Irwin’s would sound very at home on a Ti Jazz or Brickbats recording with strong hints of Tim Hill in the mix. However, there are many tunes on here such as The Lichfield Gamble, sounding not unlike John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris, which may well be quickly absorbed into the tradition and become the staple of many a session. Likewise Hymn has a sublime, timeless, lyrical quality which lends itself to a host of rich and inventive harmonies.


Thumbs-up to producer Ed Bersey who gets a really good sound from the clarinets and for producing a recording which is rich and clear sounding throughout. All in all an excellent debut. A bit like taking a journey through a musical mine of wonders with English music, the prize, at its centre.


Mark T - fRoots Magazine




Newbury Weekly News

February 2015


Packed house for double bill of duos calls for encore


"Ace Space proved its community worth once again on a freezing cold Saturday night, when a full house was treated to the refreshing sound of unplugged music.


[...] The second half took a turn in sound and style when another two master musicians, composer Paul Hutchinson, accordion, and bass clarinettist Karen Wimhust, opened with a funny tale of proper or improper thatch styles of Dorset cottages, which rather cocked a snook at the National Trust... and deservedly so. Musically, howerver, this very soulful combination of sound was not what most of us expected of the accordion - we might have expected sea shanties or morris dancing tunes from this instrument, rather than every type of Sunday night period detective drama from Miss Marple, Poirot and Midsomer Murders with that wonderful deep sound of the bass clarinet.


They surprised us with titles such as Twickenham Tango, which is where Paul alleged the tango emanated - a likely tale. Another tune, called Your Slip is Showing, was written for the A4, which took us further to the Cotswolds for Shipton on Stour and then a song called Mrs Love, written by Thomas Hardy's housekeeper.


These two brilliant musicians finished with a Russet Reel (an apple) and an encore was demanded by a very appreciative audience and so a Spanish tune was produced - Sound of the Air, which took us back out into the freezing air of old Newbury town.


I came away educated, entertained, amused and refreshed. Congratulations to Ace Space. It's a great place."


Garry Poulson - Newbury Weekly News,

Fatea Records

Reviewed in December 2015


Pagoda Project is a duo comprising Paul Hutchinson (piano accordion) and Karen Wimhurst (clarinets). And neither of them sing (except with their respective instruments of course, you might say). Lest the thought of a whole album of nothing but accordion and clarinet duets fill you with trepidation, I must entreat you to read (and listen) on. It will help you to learn that the protagonists are both hugely talented and versatile musicians and share a love of all things musical, and with a wicked - and intelligent - sense of humour to match.


Anyone who's come across Paul from his long-term tenancy with Belshazzar's Feast and Hoover The Dog will know the kind of thing to expect - i.e. ebullient yet sensitive playing, with infectious, well-pointed rhythms, and a talent for taking tunes off into creative tangents, a real gift for affectionate pastiche, and a keen understanding of all manner of folk and world musics, classical and jazz disciplines. Oh, and a delicious sense of wordplay - which surfaces in the titles of his compositions (It Takes Three To Tango, Life In The Bus Lane …). For Paul's also a gifted composer in his own right, as is Karen.


Now Karen may not be quite as well known, at least to folk fans, although her musicianship is every bit equal to Paul's (she's also a wealth of experience in opera, theatre and musical education). Karen and Paul have worked together previously in various other settings, but Pagoda Project is a uniquely tailored stand-alone arrangement, currently touring a scintillating live show. Clarion is an effective soundtrack album, and proves that their music stands up to aural scrutiny outwith the live shows' zany introductory banter. Layers of subtle, if often mildly off-the-wall inventiveness are revealed on close listening, where folk transmutes into jazz (Irwins), The Cotswold town of Shipton is portrayed with a folky tone-poem, eastern-European flavours rub shoulders with Parisian café music, and so forth. Hymn (If Only…) introduces a blast-from-the-past in the form of a prelude played on the church organ (the instrument of Paul's very first professional engagements way back then!). It gets so involved - and involving - that at times, as on the enigmatically titled Bouzurka Waltz, it almost becomes irrelevant whether the tune is a waltz, bourrée, mazurka or 3/2 hornpipe after all.


The whole project is beautifully recorded, with the tonal properties of the clarinets in particular faithfully reproduced and the instruments in ideal balance. A commendable, and rather unusual, record.


David Kidman - Fatea

Paul Rigby - The Audiophile Man!pagoda-project/c1n4m


There’s a distinct flavour of Captain Pugwash from the first few seconds of the first track of this LP that is decidely unsettling which then, very surprisingly, switches to the slinky nonchalance of a clarinet into the soundstage which immediately moves the music from children's television directly into a Parisian night club some time during the late 30s...maybe. 


That, my friends, is Pagoda Project: a piano accordion and clarinets. Yes, plural. There’s a lazy, slightly sleazy and often edgy sense to the instrumental music that pervades this often atmospheric LP and, despite the fact that we are talking English in terms of its proponents and its production, the sense of the continental and, more than that, the nostalgic flavour of noir history is palpable. The music could easily revert to your basic English folk but, no, there’s something else here which adds an exotic flavour. And it’s that clarinet(s). 


The people behind the noise is Paul Hutchinson, a well known English folkie (who was part of the award nominated Belshazzar’s Feast) and Karen Wimhurst. I think that Wimhurst’s penchant for the experimental gives this LP its spice. Her avant stylings and wish to veer off into the lefter field of music folk allows the music to seep into stranger waters which adds life and, yes, fun to the music as a whole. 


In audiophile terms, I am happy to report that the mastering has been completed with a sense of care. There are no uncontrolled frequencies shining bright lights on the midrange for unleashing a bloomy bass on proceedings. Both instruments, in fact, can be liable to dramatic car crash moments if the mastering is not up to scratch. 


That top notch mastering and the unusual approach to the arrangements make this piece…different. I like different. 


From the pen of Paul Rigby

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