Review Summary: Despite some of the soundtrack feeling restrained, Jason Swinscoe & co. deliver.
Signed to the famous jazz based electronic label Ninja Tune, The Cinematic Orchestra is led by Jason Swinscoe. Associated with Ninja Tune it becomes obvious that The Cinematic Orchestra combine jazz elements with electronic atmospheres. Their style could be looked at similarly towards Jaga Jazzist with less experimental ties; easily the best comparison would be polish outfit Skalpel. The Cinematic Orchestra began creating tunes in the 90’s in the U.K. Much like their name would indicate their style leans towards soundtracks, but they have an extremely laid-back feeling about them; instead of huge epic buildups and waves of musicians they offer a simple style that is extremely polished. Slick drums, smooth double bass, piano, softly heralded trumpet, and more importantly the vocals. The vocals that are incorporated within The Cinematic Orchestra really carry some of the weight on their albums, soulful and pleasant The Cinematic Orchestra’s approach within their music allows the listener to release most stress from everyday things. Their debut ‘Motion’ was significant because of how refined their style was after only being together for a few years. Garnering huge support from critics and a small following The Cinematic Orchestra would eventually release ‘Every Day’ another excellent outing in 2002.
‘Man with a Movie Camera’ would be made with the use of their live performances on stage during their tour across the world, only later adapting those tracks. Apparently the album is really considered a soundtrack when it was released in 2003. Some of this album can be linked to their previous effort ‘Every Day’ where they re-work some songs adding different elements within those tracks. The album actually would accompany the silent film movie of the same name. Which is why this is considered a score, but for a silent film? This is quite an interesting concept, adding a soundtrack to a known silent film that explored the happenings of a Soviet worker’s life (it was made in 1929). With no real dialogue and the monotony of the whole thing The Cinematic Orchestra tries to pace this within the soundtrack, moving slowly. Like the previous tracks that were picked from their albums “Man with a Movie Camera”, “Evolution” (entitled “Versao Portuense”) and “All Things to Men” (known as “All Things” on this soundtrack) are superb.
Interestingly enough the album really doesn’t go all out on what The Cinematic Orchestra are known for. Only a few times does the soundtrack really show what they’re all about, with the source material being so old it seems Jason Swinscoe had opted for a sluggish approach. Adding hints of somber moments in “Dawn”, yet adding the familiarity of Soviet themed music in “The Projectionist”; this adds a connection with the music and film. It must have been quite tough, even brutal working during the Industrial Era. In any revolutionary economic time things are swept aside for the country, workers are never looked after. The same could be said for America, England, and Soviet Union (which the subject matter pertains too). The varied minimalistic style throughout the album really isn’t underwhelming as it gradually enters into the jazz style we sought after from The Cinematic Orchestra. ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ still holds smooth drumming, infectious bass, and the ever present trumpet, but the means the way it is used is the key. Thus, enter “The Awakening of a Woman (Burnout)”. It’s The Cinematic Orchestra in a somewhat restrained form. Not exactly belting out the electronic produced atmosphere we are all so accustomed too. It gradually creeps in though, so much so that it’s hard to notice at some points within the song. Swinscoe’s reasons behind this is obvious, he wishes not to take away from the silent film. A bit more somber and dark than most of his material, the violins truly show the element that is the answer to this soundtrack. This really shows what a person would assume The Cinematic Orchestra would develop in their discography, truly dramatic cinematic pieces, but with a surprise twist of jazz elements throughout.
Now what is really significant is the fact that Roots Manuva’s appearance within “All Things to Men” was amazing. It was by far the highlight of ‘Every Day’, on top of the glorious solidarity the album exudes. On ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ the titled suggest his appearance is removed, for good reason, this is a soundtrack to a silent movie. This is where The Cinematic Orchestra really shows their worth, they’re able to create prompt instrumental soundtrack without the vocals that carry some of their albums. It shows Jason Swinscoe is what really matters, the man behind the slick atmospheres and production that is so lucid, yet effective. Strictly speaking ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ isn’t the type of stuff you’d feel is exactly what The Cinematic Orchestra brings, but for good reason. Swinscoe’s reason was not to overwhelm the movie with his atmosphere. It wouldn’t have worked in the slightest.