"Everyday is dark and a little twisted, but with melody and soul right next door. Don’t say 'chillout' or 'hardcore' but think both. There's room to breathe on here – remember that?...spaces and places between the notes?" (Gilles Peterson, London, March 2002)
This is a really different sound. As explained by Gilles above – you could say it was "chillout" – but that just seems to encompass way too much these days – and there are times when chilled is most definitely not the mood here. There is such an intensity to the music , especially the latest album that it, at times, sends distinct shivers down your spine.
The Cinematic Orchestra were first on the scene towards the Summer of 1999 (signed to the Ninja Tune label) – consisting of Jason Swinscoe – a bit of a musical visionary and four jazz musicians. Their first album "Motion" was received well and the stand out track "Channel 1 Suite" made quite an impact. The album was voted the best of the year by listeners to Gilles Petersons "Worldwide" Radio 1 show.
"The reaction to that first album was something of a surprise in that it really came from a couple of years locked in the studio and didn't really have much to do with dance music or even bear much relation to what else Ninja were up to at that point.....Those early tracks used soundtrack elements and strings to create textures, it became more and more obvious that it'd make sense to bring musicians in to create more of a dynamic." (Jason Swinscoe)
The "Remixes 1998-2000" album appeared after this – and again showed a great sense of imagination of progressive thinking. The winning formula again being mixtures of sampling, programming and pure mastery of instruments from the musicians themselves.
The 2002 release "Everyday" – is to all intents and purposes a progression from those first two outings. It is gritty, soulful, pensive, funky, haunting, jazzy in the Charlie Parker sense of the word, and just plain beautiful. Do I like this album? Of course.....If you visit the website (see below) you will see that the idea was actually to have a song for everyday – you can listen to a different song from the album there everyday of the week – and listen to them all on Sunday. I like that concept.
"We started it a year and a half ago, but I struggled a little with difficult-second-album syndrome......First and foremost I wanted to make forward steps, progressing the whole thing musically as well as reflecting what had been going on culturally with the rest of music. (Swinscoe)
The term "nu-jazz" has been applied to this latest work and the two additions to guest on this album are Fontella Bass – (the jazz singer who wrote "Rescue Me" in the 1960s and performed with the jazz collective "Art Ensemble of Chicago") and Roots Manuva who shares the same record label as the artist in question. The overall effect is to create lush soundscapes which lead us one way and then another. Difficult to put in any pigeon hole – this gives a new outlook on many current electronic genres and will no doubt influence many future artists.
"Essentially I see Cinematic Orchestra as a big family. There are so many people involved....but what we all have in common is this love of music and a freedom to be as creative as we can." (Swinscoe)
This could be the Pink Panther with its silky high-hat and snare. The 7/4 beats of Durian could be a pure jazz recording until we come to the eerie samples about two minutes in and then some dreamy vocal samples are added which lead to our first silence. The tune picks up a bit with a much fuller texture – leading to a seriously frantic funky section to finish the piece. Ode to the Big Sea – is fast and intense bass and percussion topped with brass and sax duetting. Night of the Iguana is downbeat and moody, with much influence on the intricacies of the percussion. Haunting harmonies from the sax and trumpet give this the feel of evocative film music. The stand out track of the album follows – Channel 1 Suite – the piano sequence follows us throughout the track – and we are greeted with various interjections by vocals, samples and instruments all blending brilliantly with the overall sound – we are taken up and down but the piano refrain remains. Bluebird is serious experimental jazz – discordant brass and frantic drumming interspersed with some pensive piano sounds. And relax! seems the perfect follow-on to the last track and lulls us to a peaceful rest with its 6/8 piano and bass refrain topped by a scratchy lethargic sax and some wistful vocal samples. The final track Diabolus continues in a similar vein – but has interludes of improvisation and some real "orchestral" moments.
We start in the minor key with All that you give with a ludicrously beautiful harp tracing up and down the scales. The bass kicks in with a slow but funky beat and builds up further with drums and a hypnotising riff from the strings.....until we hear the voice. And what a voice! Such a warm, full and emotive sound that instantly changes the mood and now all we can do is follow this luscious noise. Incidentally, Fontella Bass was grieving the loss of her husband during this recording so a lyric like "I'm grieving from my head down to my shoes" – are suddenly given a lot more import. Apparently, she cried for the first time since his death when she heard the tape played back. A marimba (or synthesised one perhaps) starts the next track Burn out and a soft bass is added in a swinging 6/8 time with cool sax harmonies on top - a seriously cool keyboard jazz improvisation in the middle breaks the mood. Flite begins with intense rhythms from the drums and goes on to showcase the musician's mastery of his instrument. Fontella Bass is again featured in Evolution which is a fine example of the use of silence and noise, soft and loud, contrasts in general – something that so often lacks from popular music. It is a simple keyboard riff with a peaceful lament on top and then suddenly it is a cry from the heart for evolution backed with thick bass and drums. The Man with the Movie Camera starts with oboe, bassoon and soprano saxophone in a little bagatelle at the beginning reminiscent of the overture to a ballet. Until the drum kicks in. And suddenly it’s the Nutcracker with a funky beat. This gets seriously frantic with a Miles Davis style improvisation and then we are taken down a notch again to finish with some sweet harmonies. An epic follows of 11 minutes and 4 seconds – All things to all Men featuring the vocals of Roots Manuva. The deceptively peaceful introduction is followed by a down tempo swing of a beat – and the vocals that follow are not so much rap as a "beatnik-style" (Whiteman) recital of the vocalist's outlook on life. Very seductive indeed. The album completes with the title track Everyday brginning with a minimalistic texture then builds up with brass, strings, woodwind – and gradually winds down again to leave us on a peaceful note.
Current line up of musicians:
Tom Chant – saxophone (soprano and alto)
Patrick Carpenter – Electronics, Decks
Jason Swinscoe – Producer, composer, mixer
Luke Flowers – drums / percussion
John Ellis – Keyboards
Phil France – Bass
Review sites: http://www.dotmusic.com/reviews/Albums/March2002/reviews24348.asp
http://www.epitonic.com/artists/cinematicorchestra.html - review by Robert Whiteman
Cinematic Orchestra website: www.cinematicorchestra.com
J. Swinscoe presents The Cinematic Orchestra: Diabolus (jan 1999)
The Cinematic Orchestra: Motion (sept 1999) (album)
The Cinematic Orchestra: Channel 1 Suite / Ode To The Big Sea (sept 1999)
The Cinematic Orchestra: Remixes 1998-2000 (nov 2000) (album)
The Cinematic Orchestra feat. Fontella Bass: All That You Give (apr 2002)
The Cinematic Orchestra: Everyday (may 2002) (album)
The Cinematic Orchestra: Horizon (oct 2002)
The Cinematic Orchestra: Man with the Movie Camera - Single (apr 2003)