Two people, 13 instruments, countless happy accidents and a Hawaiian Gretsch: Inside The Blackheart Orchestra’s horizon-chasing sound

The Blackheart Orchestra
(Image credit: Ed Fielding)

The Blackheart Orchestra are Manchester-based multi-instrumental duo Chrissy Mostyn and Rick Pilkington, a band that have seen their sound expand into what they now dub as “the smallest orchestra in the world”, bringing in 13 instruments – including guitar, bass guitar, mandola, vintage synths, omnichord, percussion and more – to flesh out a setup that started far more sparsely. 

“In the beginning, we were one acoustic guitar and two voices,” Mostyn tells us. “It was completely stripped back and as pure as you could get.”

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Glenn Kimpton

Glenn Kimpton is a freelance writer based in the west of England. His interest in English folk music came through players like Chris Wood and Martin Carthy, who also steered him towards alternate guitar tunings. From there, the solo acoustic instrumental genre, sometimes called American Primitive, became more important, with guitarists like Jack Rose, Glenn Jones and Robbie Basho eventually giving way to more contemporary players like William Tyler and Nick Jonah Davis. Most recently, Glenn has focused on a more improvised and experimental side to solo acoustic playing, both through his writing and his own music, with players like Bill Orcutt and Tashi Dorji being particularly significant.