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The Cinematic Orchestra - Ma Fleur

The Cinematic Orchestra, Ma Fleur

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

JASON Swinscoe – aka The Cinematic Orchestra – wrote Ma Fleur as the soundtrack to a specially commissioned screenplay for an imagined film (which may or may not yet be made, it states in the PR).

But while the idea behind it sounds artistic and borderline pretentious, I defy few people that actually properly listen to it not to find something beautiful within.

Shortly after finishing 2002’s Everyday, Jason relocated from East London to Paris and began working on the instrumentals that would form the basis of the new album.

Having completed a rough version by early 2005, he gave this to a friend who disappeared for three weeks and came back with short story scripts in which each scene represented a story of a different time in life, expressing the emotions which underpin the journey from birth to death.

Jason then took this and worked some more on the tracks, and in turn gave this back to his scriptwriter – the two aspects of the project developing alongside one another.

During the course of putting together the subsequent album, Jason also recruited some excellent vocalists to help convey the atmopsheres and themes he wanted to deal with.

Among them was Fontella Bass, the singer behind the huge ‘60s hit (and Vietnam anthem) Rescue Me. Now in frail health, Bass contributed to two songs – Familiar Ground and Breathe that rate among the highlights of this project.

For Breathe in particular, she drew on her heritage as a gospel singer as much as her background in soul and jazz to strip everything back to the uplifting yet reflective beauty of her unadorned voice.

Swinscoe, for his part, starts with a simple acoustic guitar riff from the group’s Stuart MacCallum and gradually builds the track into a series of emotional and dynamic peaks before, in the words of the song, he allows Fontella’s voice to be carried “out to sea”. It’s mesmerising stuff indeed.

The track that follows it, That Home, is similarly enchanting – an expansive, piano-based effort that practically reduces you to happy tears. Montreal vocalist Patrick Watson provides the smooth, soulful vocals that are akin to Zero 7’s Mozez.

Elsewhere, there’s the intoxicatingly tender beauty of Child Song and the lush cinematic sweep of As The Stars Fall to impress and blow you away.

And album finale Time And Space is a blissfully serene offering that features the angelic vocals of ex-Lamb singer Lou Rhodes (on lush early Gorecki form) – but which slowly unfolds into another magnificent journey of supple beats and upbeat piano chords.

There is the odd moment when things do flirt with pretentiousness, or merely sound like soundtrack fillers (the title track, in particular), but Jason Swinscoe has otherwise created an absolutely breathtaking experience that really does quietly move you through a number of exquisite emotions.

Download picks: Child Song, Familiar Ground, As The Stars Fall, That Home, Time And Space

Track listing:

  1. To Build A Home
  2. Familiar Ground – Cinematic Orchestra & Fontella Bass
  3. Child Song
  4. Music Box – Cinematic Orchestra & Patrick Wilson
  5. Prelude
  6. As The Stars Fall
  7. Into You
  8. Ma Fleur
  9. Breathe – Cinematic Orchestra & Fontella Bass
  10. That Home – Cinematic Orchestra & Patrick Watson
  11. Time And Space – Cinematic Orchestra & Lou Rhodes