John Metcalfe
John Metcalfe

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27 September 2010
More Scratch My Back Reviews.... 
"Metcalfe's arrangements are stunning, too – they mirror Gabriel's mix of whispers and howls on Arcade Fire's My Body Is a Cage .... They make everything sound movie-score epic.... It also makes certain that's there's plenty to discover in each track even if, as is the case with songs like Street Spirit, you've heard them thousands of times in their original form."
BBC Music

"Scratch My Back opens stealthily with David Bowie's Heroes, and resolves, on a note of ambiguous calm, with Radiohead's Street Spirit (Fade Out). In between, John Metcalfe's arrangements ramp up the drama to operatic heights. Elbow's Mirrorball is voluptuous and moving, while Arcade Fire's My Body Is a Cage could be the showstopper from some apocalyptic musical – the orchestra opens tense and restrained, then suddenly blooms like a drop of blood in a glass of water. Every song sounds like a modern classic – you suspect Gabriel and Metcalfe could make something heartrending out of the Black Eyed Peas' Boom Boom Pow."
The Guardian (5 stars)

"Which raises the questions: Can his hesitant, cowering singing style compete with a billowing army of woodwinds and strings? And will the orchestra stumble into the most common pitfalls of their pairing with rockers — weighing the songs down, robbing them of momentum or trying to compensate for all that by sawing away unmercifully?
Fear not. Gabriel and arranger John Metcalfe dodged every one of those bullets with bracing invention. The strings create individualized and dramatic settings for the pieces, throwing an ideal light on Gabriel's sensitive readings....The cleverness of Metcalfe's arrangements actually gives the songs extra action. They're rich plays now, as exciting as anything fired by drums and flailing with guitars."
New York Daily News

"The arrangements by John Metcalfe (a veteran of the classical-crossover world through his work in the Durutti Column) are either fully orchestral or simply piano-based; they expose the narrative and melodic bones of each song, connecting Paul Simon to John Adams and Bon Iver to Arvo Part."
LA Times

If you want you can read more full reviews here.


Utopia and Constant Filter reviews 
Got some nice reviews from various places for some of my compositions.

Of Tom Kerstens' CD Gramophone said ..."Metcalfe's superb 'The Third Five' a triptych for solo guitar and digital delay, and the sombre, elegiac 'As She Fell', this is music that for the most part eschews complicated musical development in favour of hypnotic cascades of sound and visceral, rhythmically vibrant accretions. "
Classic FM magazine commented " John Metcalfe's music, particularly The Third Fire for guitar and digital delay, is more mainstream classical - modal harmonies and syncopated rhythms lend a Spanish/latin feel: Albeniz or Villa-Lobos scattered by a dazzling, 21st-century prism."

For 'Constant Filter' the Independent gave it 4 stars and commented ...

Using computerised octave-splitters and delay units, Barley achieves a surprising depth of sound and harmonic richness, particularly on the title-track, where echoing wisps of electronic sound flutter around the cello like butterflies; Lonely Bay, on which the concentration necessitated by using a 40-second loop imposes a deep meditative calm; and The Appearance of Colour, where the slow accretion, note by note, of a single 25-note chord produces an imposing serenity."


Duke Quartet Update 
The Dukes gave a concert of Kevin Volans Quartets recently as part of the prestigious Berlin Festspiele in the presence of the composer. We performed in the beautiful 14th century Parochialkirche with an unusual circular interior which made for an exquisite acoustic. Will post reviews when I get them.
During the summer we played at Dartington Summer School with a programme of Webern and Berg.
We are back working with Rosas Dance Company next year with lots of dates throughout Europe performing Bartok.


Peter Gabriel New Blood Update 
The whole year has been pretty much taken up with Peter Gabriel's 'New Blood' tour and recordings. We completed the European and US tour back in May and had a blast picking up some great reviews along the way. We used the UK orchestra for shows in London and Berlin but picked up local orchestras in Paris, New York and Los Angeles. It was fascinating to work with players from different countries and hear their approach to the arrangements. The venues in the US were amazing particularly Radio City in New York and the Hollywood Bowl in L.A. It was thrilling to hear the music performed there and to be so well received by the audiences despite our initial concerns they might not want an entire evening without drums/guitars etc.
In July we recorded the tracks from Peter Gabriel's back catalogue at Air Studios including some of his biggest hits and some less well known. The UK orchestra were just amazing and we got some truly outstanding performances. Peter's engineer, Dickie Chappell, and I will be mixing the album this Autumn after the current tour finishes.


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