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Cinematic Orchestra



Debuting in 1999 with the much heralded Motion (listeners to Gilles Peterson's Worldwide radio show voted it album of the year), J. Swinscoe's Cinematic Orchestra became an instantaneous force to be reckoned with. Supposedly recorded through a process of collecting samples, teaching a band to play and improvise off of those samples, and then sampling the band in action, Motion was a revelation in sample-based beat-programming; a dark, expansive record as visionary as DJ Shadow's Endtroducing. With Motion's follow-up, Every Day, Swinscoe has further advanced and refined the Cinematic Orchestra concept, employing more musicians more often - especially bassist/keyboardist Phil France and drummer Luke Flowers - and allowing them to function more as an organic unit. Swinscoe is not just "producer" here, but arranger and composer as well. He is Gil Evans and Teo Macero and 4Hero all rolled into one fat sticky spliff (almost), and Every Day is a near masterpiece.

The term "nu-jazz" is certainly applicable here, as Swinscoe weds broken beats, turntable scratches, and hip hop vocals with spacey jazz instruments and instrumentation, but Every Day avoids all the pratfalls of the genre. Sure, the production is flawless, and the influence of '70s jazz outsiders - from Alice Coltrane to George Duke to Roy Ayers - remains clear, unlike much jazzy electronic music, there is nothing slick or saccharine about this record. Indeed, the gritty funk of Every Day is equally as haunting and brooding as Motion, and while it exhibits all of the cosmic soul of its nu-jazz brethren, its influences encompass everything from Lalo Schifrin to Andre Previn to Charles Mingus. While hardcore Motion fans may blanch at the thought of vocalists spoiling the imaginative experience of Cinematic Orchestra's sprawling, emotional journeys through sound, they ought not worry. Every Day's seven tracks (one for every day of the week) are as deep and evolved as ever, and Swinscoe arranges the presence of Fontella Bass (of "Rescue Me" and Art Ensemble of Chicago fame) and emcee Roots Manuva, who pops up in the middle of the eleven-and-a-half minute epic "All Things to All Men" to drop some beatnik-style obliqueness, as artfully as he does the 7/8ths-time drums on "Flite."

From the moment legendary soul vocalist Bass lends her incredible voice to the opening track "All That You Give," following a deceptively serene harp-heavy intro with a deeply pained, weary yet utterly arresting performance, it is clear there will be no clichéd odes to "trees of life," "positivity," or "universal grooves" here. When Swinscoe patches in anonymous bluesy wails on the following track "Burn Out," one wonders if maybe this is the record Moby thought he was making when he started looping all those old Harry Smith tracks. It is that and then some, as Swinscoe's evocative soundscapes are subtle and moving, imbuing future jazz with a much-needed dose of hurt, confusion, and lyrical and emotional ambiguity.

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