The Cinematic Orchestra | DNO151
The aptly-named The Cinematic Orchestra (TCO) were formed by Jason Swinscoe back in 1999. Jason arrived at London Bridge from Scotland with a background playing bass and guitar in bands, and DJing. His head was full of ideas and influences, such as his love of jazz bass players, rhythm sections and film soundtracks. Eight years and three albums later The Cinematic Orchestra return with their first full studio album since 2002's The aptly-named Everyday.
Entitled Ma Fleur, the record was written as the soundtrack to a specially commissioned screenplay for an imagined film (which may or may not yet be made). Shortly after finishing Everyday, a piece of music which achieved great critical and commercial success, Jason Swinscoe relocated from East London to Paris. There he began work on the instrumentals which would form the basis of his new record - more moods than finished tracks, a series of sketches or diagrams of directions to follow. Having completed a rough version by early 2005, Swinscoe gradually recruited suitable vocalists for the atmospheres and themes he wanted to deal with. The remarkable Fontella Bass (the woman behind the legendary soul number "Rescue Me" as well as some of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's finest moments) had worked on Everyday and was an obvious choice to voice the parts of the elderly protagonist that Swinscoe envisioned. Mercury-nominated Lou Rhodes is not only a fantastic singer but also a young mother, which made her perfect for the "mid-life" singer. The as-yet unheralded Patrick Watson, a remarkable vocalist from Montreal, became the youngest of the trio.
Swinscoe, now based in New York, filled out the arrangements with the assistance from his old collaborator, bassist Phil France, and his band. As a final part of the process, renowned New York photographer Maya Hayuk was commissioned to take 11 pictures to represent each of the scenes/tracks. These pictures, scenes where the characters are missing, abstracted or metaphoric, feed back into world of the soundtrack for the absent film. These images relate to both individual moments and the overall piece at the same time. Leaving the spaces as empty as possible was paramount so the viewer/listener can fill them, finish them or reinterpret them as they see fit. Dealing with themes of loss and love - and in itself representing a kind of absence - Ma Fleur is fertile ground for Swinscoe's brand of music-making. While people have talked about what he does in terms of jazz, the truth is that the basis of his music has always been in raw emotion.
From the subtle opener "That Home" to the achingly beautiful finale featuring Patrick Watson, "To Build A Home," this is an album which reaches for and finds a truth and honesty far beyond what we would normally expect from such a record. If the mood is melancholy, Swinscoe and the musicians he works with manage to make it an ultimately uplifting experience, perhaps in the end more about the love you find than the love you lose.