Cinematic Orchestra
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Motion , 7/10
Every Day , 6/10
Man With A Movie Camera (2003), 5/10
Ma Fleur (2007), 5/10
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Cinematic Orchestra is a group of young and relatively inexperienced musicians whom bandleader John Swinscoe turned into veteran session-men via studio savvy and modern recording techniques. Swinscoe created Motion (Ninja, 1999) by sampling jams, sending them to the individual players, having them play their parts over and over again until perfect, and finally re-assembling the individual parts into an organic whole. The appropriately named Cinematic Orchestra was meant as the musical equivalent of cinema's montage. It also marked an important turning point in avantgarde art, when "reconstructing" started prevailing over "deconstructing" (that had been the dominant buzzword throughout the era of postmodernism).
The music itself is a continuous tribute to film soundtracks of the 1950s and 1960s, focusing on texture and atmosphere rather than on virtuoso counterpoint or melodic prowess. Morricone was only a minor reference point (the evocative and lyrical vocal parts, the distant touches of percussion, the shimmering sensuality of instrumental timbres), while the Cinematic Orchestra leaned heavily towards jazz (and quoted repeatedly from its history, mixing imitations of Charlie Haden, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Gary Burton, Wayne Shorter, Elvin Jones, Joe Zawinul, and so forth in order to concoct the virtual reality of a jazz supergroup). The trumpet melody that emerges from the Brazialian percussive frenzy of Ode To The Big Sea (and its wild drumming solos) owe something to Don Cherry's world-jazz music. The nine-minute Diabolus is a "suite" in the tradition of British progressive-rock, namely Nucleus. The engine of Bluebirds is made of solid neurotic drumming but its soul is the closing saxophone solo a` la Gato Barbieri.
Not surprisingly, each piece is, ultimately, a collage. Durian tiptoes along with a typical Harry Mancini tempo punctuated by tiny sound events (culminating in ethereal humming and romantic trumpets) before diving into a sprightly electrical jam. The construction was not just horizontal, but also vertically layered: the rhythm section breathes life into the 13-minute Night Of The Iguana, sustaining a continuously evolving liquid jam of oneiric keyboards and lyrical saxophone themes.

Swinscoe applied the same technique to Remixes 1998-2000 (Ninja, 2000).

Every Day (Ninja Tune, 2002) is perhaps too eclectic, taking the listener on a dizzling tour of soul, jazz, blues, pop, funk and hip hop, without ever coalescing into a personal style.
The notable exception is All That You Give, which, alas, turns out to be a tedious soul ballad sung by Fontella Bass (dedicated to her late husband, jazz great Lester Bowie). The eleven-minute All Things To All Men, featuring British rapper Roots Manuva, has an even less interesting structure.
The ten-minute Burn Out sounds like a multi-dimensional collage, more or less glued together by droning saxophones. The nine-minute Man With The Movie Camera is a more lively assembly of instrumental events but tends to wonder aimlessly. The ten-minute Every Day offers the most intriguing moments with its manipulation of voices. Flite is a showcase for the drumming, perhaps a statement of what truly motivates Swinscoe.
At another level, though, the album can be read as mainly a constant, static, continuing atmosphere of suspense and gloom.

Man With A Movie Camera (Ninja Tune, 2003) is a sensual, atmospheric, trip-hoppish (but also cold, slow and predictable) soundtrack for Tziga Vertov's classic film. A few compositions (All things to All Men, The Animated Tripod, Postlude) are intriguing additions to the canon of the Orchestra, but too many vignettes are mere filler. The string chamber music Russian Record and the jazz shuffle for saxophone and keyboards of Voyager could have been real breakthrough but the Orchestra did not have the courage or the time to expand on those ideas.

Ma Fleur (Domino, 2007), a soundtrack to a film that had not been filmed yet (the soundtrack was born before the script), lacked the minimum amount of drama and/or complexity required to sustain attention. Its noir atmosphere and neo-classical arrangements are elegant and graceful, but ultimately work as intellectual muzak.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Paolo Latini)

Cinematic Orchestra è un gruppo di giovani e relativamente inesperti musicisti, che il leader John Swinscoe ha trasformato in session-men navigati grazie alla sua profonda conoscenza dello studio di registrazione e delle moderne tecniche di registrazione. Motion (Ninja, 1999) è stato costruito da Swinscoe, che, dopo aver creato delle jams con dei samples, le ha inviate ai vari musicisti, che hanno suonato le loro parti fino ad ottenere un risultato soddisfacente, e quindi ha ricucito le diverse sessions in un tutto organico. Questo spiega il senso del nome appropriatissimo: i Cinematic Orchestra sono l'equivalente musicale del montaggio cinematografico. E segnano anche un punto di svolta nell'avanguardia, dove la "ricostruzione" prevale sulla "decostruzione" (che è stata la parola d'ordine per tutta l'era dominata dal post-modernismo).
La musica in sé è un tributo continuo alle colonne sonore dei film degli anni '50 e '60, volta a creare tessiture sonore e atmosfere più che contrappunti virtuosi o prodezze melodiche. Inevitabilmente, Morricone diventa il punto di rifeimento principale (per il modo in cui le voci sono usate, in tono evocativo e lirico, i lontani rintocchi di percussioni, la luccicante sensualità dei timbri strumentali), sebbene i Cinematic Orchestra pendano decisamente verso il jazz (e le ripetute citazioni dalla sua storia, mischiando imitazioni di Charlie Haden, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Gary Burton, Wayne Shorter, Elvin Jones, Joe Zawinul, etc creano una realtà virtuale di un supergruppo jazz).

Swinscoe usa la stessa tecnica su Remixes 1998-2000 (Ninja, 2000).

Every Day (Ninja Tune, 2002) è forse troppo eclettico, dirotta l'ascoltatore in un vertiginoso tour di soul, jazz, blues, pop, funk e hip hop, senza mai materializzarsi in una canzone pienamente compiuta. Burn Out sembra un collage multi-dimensionale, non una canzone nitida. L'album è per lo più un'atmosfera continua, statica e costante di suspance e umor nero. I pezzi che si avvicinano al formato convenzionale dell'improvvisazione jazz (Flite, Every Day) sono vetrinette per i suonatori. All That You Give è una ballata cantata dalla diva soul Fontella Bass e dedicata all'ex-marito, il gande Lester Bowie.

Man With A Movie Camera (Ninja Tune, 2003) è una sensuale, atmosferica, trip-hoppica (ma anche fredda, lenta e prevedibile) colonna sonosra per un film classico di Tziga Vertov. Poche composizioni (All things to All Men, The Animated Tripod, Postlude) sono intriganti aggiunte al canone degli Orchestra, ma troppe vignette sono meramente riempitive. La musica da camera per archi Russian Record e lo shuffle jazz per sassofono e tastiere Voyager potevano essere dei capolavori, ma gli Orchestra non hanno avuto il coraggio o il tempo di lavorare su quelle idee.

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