composer/musician/ZTT artist





"The finest products of the minimalist mentality  -  Reich's ‘Music for 18 Musicians’, Riley’s exquisitely impure undertakings, Glenn Branca's tumultuous The Ascension  -  rise above the cold consideration of mechanics and draws the listener into the realms of ecstasy. Cadenza is the track in question, a mesmerising feature for two pianos that rise and dip like a tea clipper in a high wind. The effect is breath-taking; it’s superb enough to make me look forward with optimism to future releases.


“The Amusement is  The obvious successor to The Art of Noise in this modern composers forceful dynamic production. A captivating and impressive piece."


"The best things I heard (at the Huddersfield Festival) were a miniature by James MacMillian and Andrew Poppy's inventively spare and varied Poems and Toccatas


"Noise of industrial labour is submerged in Andrew Poppy's music as tremendous gathering melange of piano then brass and synthesiser, finally electric guitar in great slabs of impersonal, repetitive throbbing sound. A scenario of mixed gestures, solo melancholy and frantic deshabillement.... The Songs of the Clay People remembered by a child, are lost, fleeting renascent in a grey metropolis of granite rooms.... where excitement is provided by music which really did strike me as being of exceptional merit"


"A ritual for three performers, offstage voices and musique concrete. The effect is one of animated hallucination on which Balthus and Francis Bacon might have collaborated: arrogant ascetic, utterly sincere.


Uranium Miner s’  "impressively full of emotional shrapnel."


"His music is consistently trenchant and telling".


"The ideal composer to turn Tennessee Williams screen play Baby Doll  into an opera would be an American Janacek and Andrew Poppy comes near to it in the best moments: strong on atmosphere (a lot of sultry Southern blue notes) and punchily abbreviated in its story-telling."


"A gift for creating atmosphere the scores virtue lies in the deceptively languid way it can build up an insidious tension."


" A gripping and unusual evening....not a  moment of it is dull and several sequences are startling.


" Poppy was never solely concerned with pure minimalism and he has now developed a style of enviable flexibility, fusing a range of so called 'serious' and 'popular' sources and allowing each to emerge as appropriate.


“Fulfilling all the Liverpool Philharmonics requirements of new music, Andrew Poppy’s Horn Horn was consistently entertaining as a study in the comparability of two alto saxophonist. Harnessed together much of the time , John Harle and Simon Haram were each allowed the occasional opportunity to emerge on a comparatively thoughtful solo line from their joint virtuoso endeavours. They usefully offset the heavy industrial activity in the orchestra which, between the deceptive opening and closing bars characterises the score as a whole. An admirably high-energy all-or-nothing performance


Time At Rest Devouring Its Secret “is a 35 minute single movement work of "basically one texture" inspired by Riley's ‘In C’, Reich's ‘Drummin’g and Feldman's ‘For Samuel Beckett’ The light and lean grandeur of the orchestration recalls Takemitsu: an  unpredictable drip-drop pizzicato of deep double bass and high pitched violin or harp, mingling with tintinnabulous percussives. Overheard, clouds of strings and electronics drift and repeat in a kind of bittersweet, melancholy ecstasy that plays some fascinating psychoacoustic games with time/space and stasis/movement. Bewitching, beautifully crafted and highly addictive.”          


Poppy first hit the scene as a composer of fierce electronic soundtracks for Impact, the seminal 80's theatre company. Later, a stint as the first classical act signed to Trevor Horn's ZTT label won him an underground pop audience. He never gained the exposure of a Nyman or a Reich, though, which is a pity, because this is a first rank composer, bursting with ideas. TARDIS is a large scale piece, in which an endlessly growing melody is toyed with, split into multiples, played against itself in a random canon, and hung in the air to spin gently like a child's mobile. Time and space are suspended, as chiming, plunking and silk-smooth harmonies seem to progress forever upwards. The Doctor himself could be proud of this post post-modern, ambient, slightly kitsch, minimal machine music.


Avalanche Thoughts suggest Andrew Poppy and Julia Bardsley, are those dangerous cognitive moments that beckon disaster. Before the audience enters the performance space, we are met with an exhibition of exquisite objects combining the motifs of books and shoes enveloped in an understated sound installation. The video full of blues and whites, is deeply elemental, suggestive of gently blinding snow or a threat of  drowning. The accompanying soundtrack is similarly beautiful. Shifting like the tide, the piece finally opens up to piano music by turns melodic and discordant, becoming entwined with secular incantations, intonations of passion and of danger. In spite of the "thoughts" of its title, this is essentially a sensory experience. But none the less a beautiful one.


. “arriving at a distinctive and melodic approach he demonstrates an uncanny talent for spreading short melodic motifs over long distances without causing the mind to wander, using subtle development and barely detectable changes in orchestration. Several composers have adopted his approach since, among them Michael Torke and Michael Gordon, but it's doubtful any of them have made a recording quite like the seminal Cadenza an almost transcendental piece of music. What will surprise is the year of genesis of these pieces. Poppy joined the ZTT label some twenty years ago, hence this commemorative collection On Zang Tuub Tumb. The other parallel to draw with Poppy is Cabaret Voltaire, for some of the music takes on an experimental form, fractured rhythms thrown around for dissection. Nowhere is this more evident than Kink King Adagio…. an intriguing listen.


Despite his reputation as a minimalist, Andrew Poppy gives you plenty of bang for your buck on his ZTT works. If you're into contemporary composition, the bargain of the week has to be Andrew Poppy on Zang Tuum Tumb (ZTT 3CD, £15.99), which collects Poppy's 1980s albums The Beating of Wings and Alphabed together with a third, unreleased album and various odds and ends. You get plenty of notes for your money, too: despite Poppy's reputation as a minimalist, his best pieces are gloriously abundant in cascading cycles of notes and noises, with satisfying, circular chord sequences, using very big ensembles and big-sounding virtual ensembles with keyboards and samplers. Poppy studied music at Goldsmith's, where he co-founded Regular Music. Later, he was a key member of the Lost Jockey. By signing to Trevor Horn's ZTT label, Poppy made some interesting lateral moves. For one thing, it meant that his music was beautifully recorded, using the state- of-the-art studios. It also promoted Poppy's oeuvre to a style-conscious, Face-reading audience, complete with detailed art direction, enigmatic notes and Anton Corbijn portraits. This re-alignment cut both ways, and may have distanced Poppy from the serious recognition now handed out to his less clued-up contemporaries. Yet what you hear in Poppy's music, particularly in key works such as 32 Frames for Orchestra and Cadenza for Piano and Electric Piano, is a keen ear for the large-scale, compositional use of timbre - the qualities that drew him to the cutting edge technology of ZTT's studio-based culture. It's even there in his theme tune for The Tube, which always sounded huge compared to electro-TV music. What Poppy brought to ZTT - a label that didn't need much prompting to take itself seriously - was some genuinely good and serious work. His music's purpose is often revealed more effectively through the multi-tracked recording process. Younger composers may take this for granted, working out their masterpieces on PCs, but Poppy got there first


‘Andrew Poppy’s brief, brisk Hatch fetchingly combined harmonic iridescence with rhythmic incisiveness.’


Composer Andrew Poppy is good with large forces, and with small, intense ensembles such as piano solos and duos… Wave Machine renew the "tough minimalism" of Poppy's ZTT heyday. The radio-friendly track is Balcony Scene/Doppelgänger, which makes ingenious use of a Schubert sample from Fischer-Dieskau and Brendel. But Poppy is wasted on electro. Give this man a big orchestral commission, now!          


Echo & Decay, Spit & Crackle Recent Listening April 2009 "...and the shuffle of things" Andrew Poppy's new CD starts with a spit and crackle of velocity that slowly moves toward a triumphant, almost pomp-like, classical-sounding burst of sound. This is immediately hijacked by a voice which self-consciously undermines all our expectations by talking about the music it is interrupting. Except of course, it isn't, because the spoken part is intrinsic to the score. Just when we come to terms with that idea a bell-like note rings and the music fades away as the voice continues its existential pondering. It's a fantastic introduction to this 'cabinet of sonic curioisities' (as the sleeve notes puts it) and these kinds of musical and verbal conundrums and subversions continue throughout another 9 tracks. Much as I like a lot of Poppy's music, for me, it's a return to the kind of work I most like of his, which has previously appeared on his ZTT LP Alphabed and to a lesser extent the more difficult Ophelia Ophelia.  Poppy is a master of hybridization: classical and contemporary classical music, orchestrated rock, chamber music, synthesizer rock, art rock, show music, avant-garde music and post-rock along with performance poetry and declamatory oration are all present in the mix here. But why attach labels to what is in essence new and inspirational music? Whether or not this CD is merely things shuffled, a kind of musical sleight of hand, or not, is irrelevant. Poppy has made all these things anew, and I recommend the CD to anyone interested in where music might be found in the 21st Century and remain approachable, varied, dynamic and entertaining.                  


Mention Andrew Poppy, and people will most likely recall a couple of relatively high profile albums released on ZTT in the mid 1980s, charting the British face of what was once called Systems music’. In fact, Poppys work has continued to develop in many and varied directions since then. Laurence Crane fills in the blanks.

Over the last two decades Andrew Poppy has steadily assembled a fascinating and unusual body of work which encompasses concert music, opera and scores for contemporary dance, theatre, film and television. Despite a certain amount of commercial success in the 1980’s Poppy’s work remains largely neglected by musical organisations in this country. At a time when many younger composers seem to achieve recognition by producing music which is safe and superficial this neglect of a genuine original is, to say the least, slightly scandalous.

Andrew Poppy is undoubtedly an original composer but paradoxically it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint that originality in terms of a definition of his musical style. This is principally because defining musical characteristics differ from work to work; each piece deliberately inhabits its own self-contained world, setting out with determination to explore strictly defined musical parameters and also non-musical and conceptual preoccupations. Poppy expertly fuses tonal and non-tonal harmonic worlds in such a way that the listener actually forgets about the polarity between them. Despite this diversity it’s clear that one composer is at work; one with a keen sense of structure and proportion.

This diversity is well illustrated by pieces on two of the five CD’s that Poppy has recorded. ‘The Beating of Wings’ was one of two CD’s released on the pop label ZTT during the mid 1980’s when pop musicians had become interested in what classical composers of a minimalist persuasion were doing; Poppy had excellent credentials in this respect as a founder member of the systems music big band The Lost Jockey. The four pieces on The Beating of Wings show an assured handling of facets of a post-minimal world, from 32 Frames for Orchestra, a majestic chaconne based on a simple progression of four chords, to Listening In , an hypnotic and muscular piece created in the recording studio. By further contrast Poems and Toccatas on his CD Recordings (released on the composers’ own Bitter and Twisted label in 1992) is a sequence of short pieces for violin and piano. The harmonic language is more angular and taut and the pieces are beautifully crafted.


Claudia Brücken and Andrew Poppy - ANOTHER LANGUAGE (2005)
(There There Records)

"For an art form whose supposed pinnacle captures The Moment—The Here And Now—the temptation for pop music to look back at itself has been virtually Orphean in its irresistibility. From McCartney’s penchant for vaudeville pastiche to progressive rock’s hamfisted appropriation of neoclassical formalism to the Sex Pistols’ nihilist desecration of “Rock Around the Clock,” such perennial gazing in the rearview has always carried the whiff of fatalistic overtones—a tacit admission that the “true” definitive statements—from Bruckner to Berlin to Berry—had already been made. Whether they were to be developed or destroyed—well, that was another story.

On Trevor Horn’s ambitious Zang Tuum Tumb imprint in the 1980’s, Claudia Brücken and Andrew Poppy had ample opportunity for myth making and deconstruction alike. As lead singer of German synth-outfit Propaganda (and later as one half of Act, with Thomas Leer), Brücken gave voice to Horn’s ongoing obsession with Abba, fashioning the brilliant A Secret Wish, a masterpiece of baroque synth-pop that was equal parts pop art and Josef K-inspired post-punk. The pertly-named Poppy was barking up another, though not unrelated tree; a formally trained composer, he flaunted a remarkable gift for texture within polyrhythmic composition on two predominantly orchestral ZTT releases (The Beating of Wings and Alphabed), pitting him somewhere between the hardcore European minimalist school led by Louis Andriessen and early Cabaret Voltaire.

Given such credentials, it may come as a surprise that Another Language is neither synth-driven nor orchestral, but rather a sparsely arranged collection of covers. Of course, there have been few cover sets like this; even at their most wilfully postmodern, Bryan Ferry or Tom Jones never tackled songwriters like Billy Mackenzie, Radiohead and Elvis all in a single bound, while still making room for a nice Franz Schubert lied. For all the compositional diversity, however, Another Language deftly steers clear of outright eclecticism, largely because if the choice of material is generally inspired (MacKenzie’s “Breakfast”, McAlmont & Butler’s “You Do”), the performances are equally so.

But it’s when the two meet that the real fireworks go off. Where the Broadway flourish of David Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday” has long been screaming for the epic piano treatment it receives here, Frank Black’s “White Noise Maker” certainly hasn’t. And yet here the latter song—track nineteen on the hit-and-miss Teenager of the Year—is positively transformed into a marvel of polytonal and melodic innovation—the kind of revelation that sends the listener back to the original wondering what they’d been missing. That sense of vitality pervades Another Language; even when it trends toward the obvious, an excerpt from Schubert’s bleak song-cycle, Die Winterreise, Poppy twists convention, in this instance performing the accompaniment not on piano, but guitar.

Indeed, the record is a defining moment for the composer/arranger. Long exiled to the contemporary concert music world with only the occasional pop string arrangement for the likes of The The, Poppy handles the disparate pop material with a genuine verve—as if deprived of his beloved orchestra, he were determined to wring every last melody and harmony from his solitary instrument. Particularly on the album’s centrepiece, a reflective take on Kate Bush’s euphoric “Running Up That Hill, ” Poppy’s accompaniment supports Brücken’s cool alto with a supple lyricism, its chromatic use of parallel fourths drawing out of the song a melancholy only hinted at by the programmed Fairlight textures of the original.

Yet only with Another Language’s concluding track, Elvis Presley’s “Wooden Heart,” does the title of the record become clear. As Brücken sings the final verse of the childlike melody in German, Poppy comps along on Fender Rhodes, interpreting the Fifties pop standard the composer once acknowledged was his “first clear musical memory as a child.” It’s a moving moment—one that reminds how sometimes only when speaking in something other than our native tongue do we really have anything to say."

For a complete interview with Andrew, go here. Matthew Weiner: Stylus Magazine

‘As part of the Southbank Centre’s year-long retrospective festival The Rest Is Noise, the BBC Concert Orchestra assembled on Saturday 30 November 2013 in the Queen Elizabeth Hall to perform 19 eighties: the rhythm of a decade. The program boasted a sundry of diverse compositions. Andrew Poppy’s 32 Frames for Orchestra made for a bounding introduction. It was attention grabbing in a way that cast aside all the clichéd reference points one associates with the eighties as a consequence of the distribution channels that took off during that era. Once Poppy’s spellbinding number came to a close, it was a real treat to see him appear onstage to play piano on Almost the Same Shame. On its world premiere, the arrangement saw Poppy as a daring and agile composer, introducing the string section with a sequence that was delicate, complicated and wonderfully delivered – one of those rare moments that fully occupies the mind and allows for a visceral connection with the music.

The first half of the show was assuring in that it highlighted some moments within a decade that are not perhaps immediately addressed, while managing to avoid surface level pop-culture references…the works of Tavener, Martland and Poppy stood out above all else – they shone through as compositions incarnated on the brink of technological revolution while they touched upon distinctly human responses; appropriations of the unknown, of aesthetic realignment and of new beginnings.’


Teatro Collosseo, Turin. September 2014. ‘Andrew Poppy is a veteran English avant-garde artist - a recent discovery for me:  a character quite sheltered, off the radar of much of contemporary criticism, he is one of the interesting outsiders presented by this festival – the intersections of different acts animating Septembers musical experience. With a stage presence and attitude that recall both the seraphic Battiato or the histrionic David Byrne, Poppy moves between the shaft of the microphone at centre stage, the pc and the piano slightly set back. At the piano Poppy juggles a recurring matrix of Cageian melody and Philip Glass forms. The long piano sonatas interleave with the almost spoken word pieces at the microphone. He addresses the audience on a carpet of minimal electronics. This alternating is bipolar both calculated and theatrical and marked by moments of surreal comedy. It’s quite sui generis.’


‘Andrew Poppy's slow, softly turbulent, and rather wonderful Revolution No 8: Airport for Joseph Beuys.’


‘Pook and Poppy are both composers who’ve worked widely in music. All types of music, all types of theatre, all types of ensembles. (Pook’s Electra Strings and Poppy’s Lost Jockey have left a lasting legacy.) They are also both musicians au fait with the augmented instrumentation that digital technology offers. Poppy’s latest album/performance work Shiny Floor, Shiny Ceiling is a song cycle of sorts, featuring (among others) his former ZTT colleague Claudia Brücken, lyric tenor James Gilchrist and mezzo Margaret Cameron. What Poppy calls an “opera entertainment” for voices, a dancer and master of ceremonies (the composer himself) is a confident exploration of both staging and performance. Scored for strings, keyboards and guitars, Poppy’s intimate and indefinably scary cabaret songs have a strong presence, none more so than on the title song, with its rising panic so skillfully voiced by Gilchrist.’