The Unfolding by Hannah Peel & Paraorchestra

Release date: April 1, 2022
Label: Real World Records

In an interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes last weekend when he did a profile on Laurie Anderson, he asked her on how she could tell a story whether it was beautiful or true, which one would she pick? Her answer was beautiful. “They can shift everything.” she mentioned, “And in that, is a whole way to learn how to see the worlds and how you might react to it. That might be different.” For Hannah Peel, she has created her own version of Fantasia with the Paraorchestra on The Unfolding.

Released on Peter Gabriel’s label Real World Records, Mercury Prize and Emmy nominee Hannah Peel took three years to bring The Unfolding to life during the pandemic. While they were living in tricky times when COVID happened, she knew that The Unfolding was going to be something extraordinary waiting to happen.

Peel has made a name for herself. Alongside scores for TV and film that she’s done, she’s known for working with Paul Weller on his 2018 release True Meanings and conducting for a small orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall for his live album, Other Aspects recorded two nights on October 11 and 12th that following year. She’s also in two bands; John Foxx and the Maths and The Majestic North.

Not to mention, a weekly presenter for BBC Radio 3’s Night Tracks with her co-host, Sara Mohr-Pietsch. On her new album, it becomes a big step for her that she’s embarking towards. The Paraorchestra are based in Bristol. A group of both disabled and non-disabled musicians – the first orchestra that is truly one of a kind to come out of the United Kingdom.

Inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s book Underland: A Deep Time Journey, Peel and conductor Charles Hazlewood, get down to business with the Paraorchestra. The bouncing electro-beats between vocals and string section on ‘If After Weeks of Early Sun,’ becomes this dangerous tribal dance for is unveiling. You feel the pressure cooker starting to boil as it starts to erupt.


The Paraorchestra does this insane vibe as they jump from one tightrope to another whilst the conga-sque vibe from the percussions, gets even hotter than ever! Elsewhere in the heart of the jungle, the futuristic ‘Wild Animal’ has a dangerous apprehension. It lets listeners know that they are not alone.

It becomes an alarming, menacing, and running vibration to keep you going to a safer area before deadly beast starts to attack. Once you reach to safety, that’s where you enter those majestic temples to reveal its ‘Passage.’ The wind instruments become even more of a big blast to resemble the sounds of the shofar that you would hear in synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur every year in the fall.

The sound becomes a crying call to the gods, waiting for a sign from the vocal-less atmosphere to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But both the opening track ‘The Universe Before Matter’ and the title-track, are calms after the intensive heat you’ve embarked on.

For Peel and Victoria Oruwari, they bring in this reverbing cavernous effect inside the temple. As the duo leave, they know that things will be different whilst the string section returns to set up this massive thunderstorm to approach as the wind instruments bring forth the raindrops to hit on Earth’s dry land.

‘Perhaps It Made Us Happy For a Minute’ has some strong morning sunrises to start the new day. Bringing to mind Phillip Appelby’s score to Tony Collingwood’s 1988 animated short debut Rarg, Oruwari and Peel dance to the water dropping scats on ‘We are Part Mineral.’

There’s an operatic quality that comes to mind as they walk up and down the stairs with this train chugging arrangement. For the first two minutes before they hit the dance floor once again, it relives the stress they have inside their body by creating some high-flying textures to head towards the heavens.

Coming forth the Danny Elfman and Terry Riley approach, it has enough horse power as the duo and Paraorchestra call for the sun to come out and let matches begin for its climatic end by entering the Pearly gates in the 10-minute finale, ‘Part Cloud.’ Walking through various landscapes and taking listeners on this challenging journey, The Unfolding is worth a repeatable listen.

It may take time to get into, But Hannah Peel has put together this amazing exhibition to get your attention to witness, hear, and see this beautiful painting come to life.

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