By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
Some folks say Cinematic Orchestra play acid jazz, a/k/a downtempo, a/k/a middling, vanilla sushi beats. This stems from an association with the Ninja Tune label, and it's crap. Saying that Cinematic Orchestra play downtempo is like saying Can played rock 'n' roll. Theythe Orchestra, led by the English-born, New Yorkbased Jason Swinscoecraft slow, sultry songs, but the tunes reach far beyond the realm of spliffs and drum machines.
Composed by Swinscoe and featuring the voices of Patrick Watson (whose hauntingly diaphanous whir smacks of Antony & the Johnsons), Lamb's Lou Rhodes, andmost notablysoul diva Fontella Bass (lady sang "Rescue Me"!), Ma Fleur is a gorgeous wash that never loses its way. While earlier efforts veered toward jazzier techniques like brushed drums and even the odd 5/4 tempo, these tracks are gauzier, with themes and instruments floating in and outhorns, woodwinds, strings, pianos, acoustic guitars, and that trustworthy stand-up bass.
"This is a place where I don't feel alone/This is a place where I feel at home," sighs Watson. "I've built a home for you." These lines bookend the record, most appropriatelySwinscoe's vision is truly otherworldly. The group has always aspired to write music for imaginary films, and Ma Fleur is the Orchestra's most cinematic achievement to date.
Cinematic Orchestra play Central Park Summerstage July 7, and Joe's Pub July 8, summerstage.org and joespub.com