When I see the band name "The Cinematic Orchestra", I think epic strings, huge brass sections, and overall just heart-pounding music. I think John Williams and all his famed theme songs. However, the last thing I would think about for movie music, although it does happen every once in a while, is laid back and chillout music. The Cinematic Orchestra makes this type of music, as simply another great band on the Ninja Tune label, next to Jaga Jazzist and Skalpel. Ninja Tune almost single-handedly owns the genre of "nu-jazz", a genre taking elements of post-rock, electronica, and jazz and molding them into one.
The Cinematic Orchestra does only one thing and does it well, creating lush and chill easy listening music with the help of beautiful yet simple melodies and perfect feel from the rhythm section. Phil France, an experienced jazz musician, creates incredible basslines and considered by Swinscoe his right hand man in composing the music to this album. Luke Flowers' drumming often sits in the background, but something about his feel lets the song sit back and take its time at slowly creeping into the listener's brain and relieving any stress buzzing around their mind. This rhythm section allows Tom Chant to create melodies by tracking multiple saxophones and allowing John Ellis and PC to make countermelodies and accompany him on his assault to dominate the world of nu-jazz.
However, the best songs on this album, for the most part, are the songs featuring guest vocalists. Evolution, featuring Fontella Bass, begins with a keyboard intro. The intro is an ascending line that swells in dynamic level extremely fast. Bass adds in and Fontella says more than sings "The stars light up my life." Fontella starts singing sparsely over this riff, making more comparisons to space objects. Drums add in and Phil France starts making his bassline. The song, still extremely laid back, seems danceable as well. The song trades off between these two riffs. Once back into the groove, Fontella sings the title and then the keyboard takes a solo. The solo, very chord based, is nothing too fast yet has enough technical quality to impress. PC takes a solo on the turntables, showing trip-hop influences in The Cinematic Orchestra. The song closes out with the intro riff once again, bringing a sense of closure about the song.
All Things to All Men is a huge surprise on the album, featuring Roots Manuva, a rapper. However, his appearance comes later in the song, as the beginning is completely instrumental. Starting with sole keyboard chords and faint saxophone tracks, the song feels like a slow builder. As more saxophone tracks add in along with bass, the song gets louder and louder. Suddenly, things start dropping out, and then drums add in with a hip-hop groove. What the hell is going on? The intro riff continues with a more laid back feel due to the hip-hop groove. It is clear Phil France doesn't quite know what he is doing in a hip-hop setting, as his bass playing is not quite up to par with the rest of the album. The saxophones drop out and the keyboards take a back seat for the appearance of Roots Manuva and his rapping. The lyrics he writes are extremely well written, and his fluid rapping is surprisingly relaxing. He makes many allusions to Christianity, including the title, which comes from the book of Corinthians in the Bible. His rapping lasts for a good 4 minutes, until everything is gone but a piano playing the chorus chords. As the chords continue, another piano track plays two half steps back and forth very quickly, building tension to enter back into the groove. The drum beat is a bit more technical, with some ride accents into the beat. The saxophone creates a two note melody to compliment the piano chords. A harpsichord voice enters, playing a solo and then with one minute left plays insanely fast runs all the way across the instrument. This takes the song out with a fade out.
The best instrumental on the song is the closer, Everyday. It features Phil France's upright bass playing, starting with just him on the intro. The solo creeps further and further up the fretboard, slowly. At about 1:20, the bass drops out and drum cymbal splashes and a keyboard voice take center stage. The bass accents the chord towns until building his own bassline, almost reaching a solo point. The drums add a snare hit in on 2 to add a sense of an actual beat into the song. More voices continue to add on and the beat becomes more distinguished throughout. Eventually PC throws in a vocal sample that is either in another language or just incomprehensible. A boy's choir enters, fitting the music perfectly. PC is the unsung hero of The Cinematic Orchestra, adding little nuances to make great music. At about 7 and a half minutes, the song reverts back to only the keyboard voice and cymbal splashes. Everything fades out for a tranquil finish to the album of Every Day.
While the songs get slightly repetitive and most of the instrumentals aren't great, The Cinematic Orchestra makes a good album for relaxing. The only technically achieved musicians on the album are Phil France and Luke Flowers, laying down some of the best rhythm section feels in a long time.
All Things to All Men