Review Summary: In which elegance cozies up to sincerity.
We all adored Submotion Orchestra’s debut Finest Hour
because the album brought an otherwise scarce sense of elegance into our messy lives. From one tightly knit crescendo to the next, between its relaxed dubstep temperament and the precisely coordinated jazz passages, Finest Hour
wowed both electronic music veterans and newcomers to the dubstep scene. The album merged a hodgepodge of genres that previously were mere acquaintances - and it was a breath of fresh air. What was even more refreshing about Finest Hour,
though, was how cohesive it all was. The album was a tangible movement in a promising direction for Submotion Orchestra, a stellar realization towards the group’s true potential.
At the end of the day, though, Finest Hour
was more a solidification of similar ideas than anything. Nobody should be surprised, then, that its successor follows up with some variation. Fragments
is a more confident beast, and knows its strengths well; in fact, it learns what to expand upon from its predecessor. Pick your favorite aspect of Finest Hour,
and check for anything resembling it on Fragments.
It’s there; don’t worry. For example, remember the instant in “All Yours,” where the trumpet bursts through the wall of sound to make an already stunning tune that much more monumental? Yeah, well, so does “Thinking,” an immediate favorite here - not to even mention how palatable the song is as a whole. There are plenty of equally rewarding moments in the album, although more subdued: “Sleepwalkers,” for instance, charms with the passion of a lonely lover, and its chorus succeeds so thoroughly because of its sorrow-laced presentation.
This is where one of the most prominent shifts in Submotion Orchestra’s music comes into play. Never before has the group’s music been so emotionally upfront. “Eyeline” embraces both experience and discovery, dueling concepts that coexist in harmony of the track. It all comes together in the final chord of the chorus, the grand chord that pulls the track together so well. Elsewhere, “Bird of Prey” provides a vitality unseen in the group thus far; the track’s up-front breed of exploratory dubstep and unique instrumentation presents us with a more revealing Submotion Orchestra. They aren’t afraid to hand the wheel over to emotion anymore, to let clear and certifiable passion drive their music. “Coming Up For Air” is the most gratifying track because of this realization, and to explain why it works so perfectly would be to ruin the surprise that wraps up the album. Experimentation runs hand-in-hand with these newfound changes, too. “Times Strange” seems to exist solely to elicit mixed reactions - Rider Shafiq’s spoken-word contribution is an unexpected addition to Submotion’s palette, sure, but it also adds to the playfulness that’s accomplished on Fragments.
It’s impressive, really, how Submotion Orchestra is able to comprise Finest Hour
’s most effective moments into a more expressive finished product. In the end, Fragments
’s name serves it well - the album consists of many distinct ideas placed together, but pieces that form a massive collective whole, possibly setting the bar even higher for their future.