Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Motion #1 - The Cinematic Orchestra

In Motion #1

The Cinematic Orchestra
Ninja Tune Records.

SCQ Rating: 84%

A lot of time has passed since Jason Swinscoe, mastermind of The Cinematic Orchestra, reached new audiences with Ma Fleur, but not much has changed. Swinscoe’s muse remains invested foremost in scoring visuals; as 2007’s breakthrough came bundled with nostalgic photography to augment specific tracks, In Motion #1 serves cinema via a handful of commissioned soundtracks. Moreover, five years of absence finds The Cinematic Orchestra largely the same diluted version of its early, Ninja-Tune-heyday self, choosing to stretch its electronic and jazz elements thinner over spacious post-classical templates. The word “diluted” implies a weakening, but it’s used here to denote an evolving, positive shift in the collective as it seeks more ambitious territory than Ma Fleur.

For one thing, Swinscoe’s brought his musical family to the forefront, sharing his orchestral pit with the likes of Dorian Concept, Tom Chant, Grey Reverend, Austin Peralta, and others. Each is accountable for writing and performing selected tracks – some without Swinscoe's direction at all – on In Motion #1, and it’s surprising how their results extend The Cinematic Orchestra’s loose approach to jazz, classical and electronic music. “Dream Work” exists as a coda occasionally confronted by reckless horns and lush string arrangements. “Outer Space” survives a woozy opening of squiggles like lost transmissions for a gorgeous tonal landscape of strings, horns and a frenetic sax workout. And even when a track hesitates to engage directly, as with Austin Peralta’s “Lapis”, it’s a beautiful morning-song of meandering.

The spacious surplus of these tracks – not to mention the twenty-minute spread of “Entr’acte”, a monstrous adventure over 2007 hit “To Build A Home”'s sentimentality – is contracted by “Necrology”, one of two Swinscoe solo tracks that realign The Cinematic Orchestra’s tight rhythmic component via a militarized percussion layout, synthetic bass, electric keys plus intertwining piano and guitar codas. It’s not only the first track but a perfect launch point too, using a familiar foundation to usher In Motion #1’s more out-there compositions.

It’s difficult to fully assess these works without the visual context these scores deserve but that failure to bundle the source films as a companion disc to In Motion #1 doesn’t damn the product. These expansive, if occasionally longwinded, productions boast enough beauty and conflict to score the trials and delights of daily life. In many ways, In Motion #1 is like a dream album from The Cinematic Orchestra; not meaning that it’s perfect, but in the sense that these songs occupy so much surrealist landscape, it may become a personal favourite because it goes where few fans ever expected it to.

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