The Cinematic Orchestra
Ma Fleur


4.0
excellent

Review

by Tyler Fisher EMERITUS
June 4th, 2007 | 22 replies | 12,053 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Cinematic Orchestra finally takes its name to heart and diverges from their jazzy style.

The arts in Paris extend beyond the paintings and other visual art displays in the Louvre. Film noir, theater, and even the culinary arts have a distinct place in Parisian culture. Many a renaissance man finds himself at home in Paris, and Jason Swinscoe is no different. The bandleader and composer for The Cinematic Orchestra, Swinscoe reposed in Paris to finally make his band live up to its name. Yes, he and his bandmates composed a new soundtrack for the classic Man with a Movie Camera, but Ma Fleur is entirely a new creation. It takes the approach that so many other artists, especially in post-rock, are using to create albums. Ma Fleur is a soundtrack. What’s interesting, however, is that the soundtrack actually influenced the movie rather than vice versa. Swinscoe laid out base ideas for songs, and then took his ideas to a friend who came back with short stories based on the songs. He also commissioned artist and photographer Maya Hayuk to take pictures that represented each song. The themes of Ma Fleur are nothing new, dealing with loss and love in the journey from birth to death, but the musical accompaniment - or maybe it should be called the main attraction - is different from the downtempo, nu-jazz styles of their previous records. The Cinematic Orchestra’s latest effort is much more, well, orchestral. Epic. Yet still reserved and contemplative.

As always, the guest vocalists play an immense role on the album. On Ma Fleur, one quite nearly steals the show. Patrick Watson, a somber tenor with impeccable dynamic range, opens the album with “To Build a Home”. It serves as an organic opener to the album, much like many movies do. It grows from simple, slow piano chords to a full swell with a string section taking the instrumental forefront. Watson’s voice soars over the soundscape gracefully and beautifully, showing off his falsetto in the climaxes. Despite the personal, tangible style of “To Build a Home”, the rest of the album takes on a much more surreal style, relying on atmosphere rather than musical intricacy and virtuosity. Watson even returns to his same memorable lines from the opening track in the reprise “That Home”, singing “This is a place where I don't feel alone/This is a place where I feel at home,” but it all seems miles away, mystical. There is a musical smokescreen that covers the face of The Cinematic Orchestra, blurring the lines between jazz, classical, and many other kinds of music. For this reason, the instrumental tracks are most ethereal, creating the best hazy atmosphere. From the string section feature “Prelude” to “As the Stars Fall”, which sounds like the ensemble’s older, jazzy efforts.

Still, the instrumental songs are few and the album relies on its vocal-based songs for its success. Fontella Bass makes a return to the ensemble, a long-time guest with the band, for two songs- “Familiar Ground” and “Breathe”. Fontella’s voice fits right into the band’s new sound for Ma Fleur, especially on “Breathe”. It sounds like her voice is singing from an AM radio station, delicately sitting on top of the sparse musical arrangement. Her calm, unwavering confidence adds to her effect, one of prophetic, uplifting purpose. “Time and Space” closes the album with the other guest vocalist on the album, Lou Rhodes. She possesses a deep alto, much in the range of Fontella’s, but her voice has a more expressive quality to it. Rhodes drops out after singing the intro to the track, where the band builds into their distinctive jazzy style. It makes a subtle, surreal, but extremely effective finale to the album.

Ma Fleur is a triumphant return for The Cinematic Orchestra, a certain rise in artistic expression for Jason Swinscoe and his instrumentalists. The album’s flaws are more in its presentation than its performance. As a whole, the album feels disjointed and broad. Each song represents a scene, and with what the listener is given, it is hard to imagine these scenes fitting together into any sort of movie. Swinscoe portrays the settings and expects the listeners to imagine everything else - plotline, characters, etc. The vocalists give vague ideas in their lyrics, but it is impossibly hard to connect everything together. Style and instrumentation vary heavily throughout the album. Still, it is an enjoyable, trance-inducing listen that stands among their releases as one of the most artistic and musical statements of the band’s career.



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user ratings (118)
Chart.
4
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Tyler
Emeritus
June 4th 2007



7924 Comments


I wanted this back when Amit first recommended it, now I want it more. I will fix that.

ohcleverhansyou
June 4th 2007



885 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This sounds pretty good, I'll keep this band in mind.

djtrousse
June 5th 2007



36 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm so happy that someone decided to review this album i'm not good enough in english to rewiev anything with more than 5 lines, but this album is definitely their best and will probably be in my top 5 albums of 2007 at the end of the year.

Great rewiev!

LF96
June 5th 2007



97 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review for a great album. Props for reviewing it, I was actually thinking of reviewing this, but I wouldn't have done it much honor.
Breathe, To Build a Home and Time & Space are extremely beautiful songs, and the rest of the tracks are great as well. A bit more drumming and a bit more variation would've been welcome though.This Message Edited On 06.05.07

Kage
June 15th 2007



1173 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album isn't near as good as their other albums.

ChiBoys
June 18th 2007



22 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I bought this album thinking the rest would be like the opening song (which is fantastic) but everything after the opener paled in comparison. I was kind of dissapointed and bored with it all by the end of my first listen. It's good enough that i will continue to listen to it for a few months but i think it fell short of MY expecations which weren't that high in the first place.

blackmilk
August 25th 2007



584 Comments


this is pretty uninteresting

Riziger
October 2nd 2007



316 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice review, very in-depth.

downloaded this. first time i'm listening to this band and i like this album. it's very sort of, atmospheric. lots of emotion in the songs.

especially nice for listening at night. loving to build a home and music box.

ohcleverhansyou
October 2nd 2007



885 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I found this a little boring after all. Some nice moments, but for the most part more atmosphere than song.

Spare
July 31st 2008



5223 Comments


edited for being a fucking dumbass in 2008

Sabottheory
December 11th 2008



355 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome

MassiveAttack
May 11th 2009



2684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album is totally different from their other albums' approach. It works brilliantly, what a fantastic album and new direction.

cfbassist
July 13th 2010



324 Comments


is the one extra track in the UK version good? or should i not bother to go searching for it?

JulianAssange
December 11th 2010



140 Comments


To build a home. Brilliant.

willfellmarsy
February 16th 2011



3844 Comments


is patrick watson connected to anything other than the few tracks on this album?

Spare
February 16th 2011



5223 Comments


he's in a band called patrick watson. it's a band. i did a terrible review of one of their albums ages ago.

Gyromania
August 9th 2012



14653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this is gorgeous.

Gyromania
August 12th 2012



14653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

wish more people knew/talked about this group.

Calc
August 12th 2012



10880 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this album brings the calm

Gyromania
August 12th 2012



14653 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this ones got 92 ratings which is sweet but their best album only has 32...

with you there. motion is too fucking good.



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