The Cinematic Orchestra: Everyday (Ninja Tune)

Think about music and how it creates pictures in your mind (good music, that is), and this is what Cinematic Orchestra does best. It moves you across a landscape, urging you to go from one pasture to another.

Where to start when talking about the Cinematic Orchestra? Perhaps let’s start with J. Swinscoe who started the Orchestra in 1999. He was a DJ of some acclaim in London (as well as a Ninja Tune employee) who would do on-air house mixes featuring a variety of acts. Soon he began working live, recording the results, resampling that, and coming out with what the odd mix that would eventually become Cinematic Orchestra. With the release of Motion in 1999, the group started gaining attention and critical praise. Soon J. Swinscoe and his eclectic group of jazz musicians (though jazz is hardly what defines them) began playing live. It was these live performances that provided the impetus for Everyday. Their notoriety in Portugal brought them to the attention of the Porto Film Festival which commissioned them to write and perform a new score for Dziga Vertov’s avant garde classic Russian film Man With a Movie Camera. Both the track with that title and the song, “Evolution,” were first performed in front of 3,500 people at the festival.

On first listen to this CD, you will feel yourself being swept up in the wall-to-wall sound that the group provides. They are building you a world—their world, and it is complete and essential. The two previously mentioned tracks, “Man With a Movie Camera” and “Evolution,” are both amazing. I say this first because they unite so many different musical elements, styles, and emotions and they defy the listener to say that this is anything but a unique listening experience. You cannot listen to them and pinpoint the influence for the influences fly in from all over. The eclectic music listener in me was gratified to hear things that even my broad but limited education had touched on. “Evolution” offers us a tasty vocal from a giant in the Jazz world—St. Louis’ own Fontella Bass. From its beginning, quietly Fontella sings, “The stars light up my life, so bright, everlasting—” and she never lets us go. She carries us through the clouds, up to the heights that her voice can bring us. Not a rapid trip, it is measured, even, and confident. She is accompanied by the Orchestra, but they do not serve as background; they are more collaborators. She edges them on and they her. Perhaps the Orchestra take you out to the dance floor and Fontella gives you a spin.

“Man With a Movie Camera” is once again a song that defies definition. You will hear it playing in your head long after you foolishly remove it from your CD player. It is an epic that takes you on a journey, not only visually but aurally. Think about music and how it creates pictures in your mind (good music, that is), and this is what Cinematic Orchestra does best. It moves you across a landscape, urging you to go from one pasture to another.

The rest of the CD follows suit. Standout tracks include “All Things to All Men,” which features Roots Manuva on vocals: 11 minutes and 10 seconds of preaching about life and hope that is fantastic. “All That You Give” once again features Fontella and probably the best and only harp you will hear on a standout song this year.

The album is fascinating and does take some will to listen to. This is not background music—nor should it be. It is what good music should be, though: something that makes you think, something that moves you, something that you take with you.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply