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Electro - Released March 15, 2019 | Ninja Tune

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Electro - Released May 7, 2007 | Ninja Tune

For the true follow-up to 2002's Every Day -- since 2003's Man with a Movie Camera soundtrack had actually been recorded four years earlier -- J. Swinscoe & co.'s Cinematic Orchestra produced another soundtrack, this one virtually invisible. Not long after Every Day's release, Swinscoe began writing music for another Cinematic LP, but in another direction from where he'd gone previously. This was a series of quiet, contemplative instrumentals, with Rhodes keyboards and reedy clarinets, simply begging for a narrative (call them orchestrations for cinema). With scripts for each supplied by a friend -- each track got its own story, together comprising different scenes from a single life -- and a series of unpeopled photographs supplied by Maya Hayuk, Cinematic Orchestra had the narrative they needed for their invisible soundtrack. (Added vocals from Fontella Bass, Lou Rhodes, and Patrick Watson represent the same person at different ages.) The results form an intensely affecting record, but one whose monochromatic format unfortunately serves no large purpose; when every song attempts to become a mini-masterpiece of melodrama, patience grows thin. Swinscoe tells us that he wanted to record an album where "leaving the spaces as empty as possible was paramount," but he can hardly complain if we choose to leave him the space to himself. [A U.K. version of the album was also released.] ~ John Bush
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Electro - Released May 13, 2002 | Ninja Tune

With Every Day, Cinematic Orchestra move beyond the electro-jazz fusion of their debut to make a record more natural, more paced, and, surprisingly, better than the justly hyped Motion. J Swinscoe is more the arranger/conductor here than the producer, but of course, there's little need for samples or effects with such an accomplished band sharing the burden. For the opener "All That You Give," Swinscoe and Co., plus harp player Rhodri Davies, spend a few minutes delicately paving the way for a deeply felt vocal by soul hero Fontella Bass. "Burn Out" is a lush, meditative track with a pleasantly ambling solo from Phil France on electric piano, a few appropriately cinematic-sounding horns, an age-old vocal sample, and occasional creaking static phasing through. Bass returns for another splendid track ("Evolution"), and the mighty Roots Manuva appears on a magisterial, spoken-word quasi-autobiography, "All Things to All Men." Except for a pair of detours into highly programmed "broken beat" production, Every Day is a textured, acoustic work; Cinematic Orchestra take their time setting up these songs -- of the seven tracks, four last over nine minutes. The sounds and styles heard may not be revolutionary, but instead of simply pushing stylistic boundaries, Cinematic Orchestra display a real gift in making emotional, artistic music. ~ John Bush
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Electro - Released May 27, 2003 | Ninja Tune

It was just a matter of time before the Cinematic Orchestra received a commission for a film score, but this 2003 release actually dates from 1999. The genesis of Man With a Movie Camera lies in the selection committee of a Portuguese film festival, which asked Cinematic Orchestra to score their re-airing of Dziga Vertov's 1929 film of the same name, a silent Soviet documentary focused on a day in the life of an average worker. Performed live by the orchestra, Man With a Movie Camera doesn't allow J Swinscoe to indulge in his usual post-production magic, but it is a surprisingly adept score, with occasional bursts of on-the-one jazz-funk wailing to break it up. (Pity the poor comrade who's soundtracked 70 years later with a hyper-speed Pretty Purdie-type drum solo and some old-school-rap samples in the background.) Scattered moments of brilliance abound, and at one point, someone on sax comes up with a brilliant foghorn recreation. The cinematic material lies in '70s astral jazz, with evocative, tremulous work from soprano sax and violin. Just two caveats: several of these performances were later echoed in tracks appearing on the Cinematic Orchestra's 2002 release Every Day, and some passages have a baffling, you-had-to-be-there quality. Apparently it was a hit at the festival, though only the DVD release of Man With a Movie Camera has the film itself, along with a Cinematic Orchestra performance live in the studio, plus a Channel 4 documentary on the making of the record. ~ John Bush
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Electro - Released October 29, 2007 | Ninja Tune

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Electro - Released January 15, 2019 | Ninja Tune

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Electro - Released February 13, 2019 | Ninja Tune

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Film Soundtracks - Released December 8, 2008 | Walt Disney Records

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Electro - Released April 5, 2010 | Late Night Tales

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Electro - Released April 7, 2008 | Ninja Tune

As a venue, the Royal Albert Hall in London is the stuff of legend. It is so elegant it inspires greatness in performers no matter the discipline, as well as rapt and supportive attentiveness in audiences. Some of its past performers have included Frank Sinatra, a double bill by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Bob Dylan, to name a few. It therefore goes without saying that the weight on Cinematic Orchestra mastermind Jason Swinscoe to pull off something grand for a recording and video document of this CO performance was considerable. In order to accomplish this feat, he swelled the ranks of his group to over 40 members, including the entire 24-piece Heritage Orchestra! Vocalists Heidi Vogel, Lou Rhodes, and Grey Reverend are all present to reprise their roles from various selections on studio recordings. Original Cinematic Orchestra turntablist PC returned to the fold for the evening as well. The sound is as lush, lively, and beautiful as one could possibly imagine. Vogel's performance on the set opener, "All That You Give" (it originally appeared on 2002's Every Day), is just gorgeous. After Swinscoe announces her with a beautiful string intro, her soulful croon comes on full: sultry, emotional, and smooth. The dynamics and textures Swinscoe assembles with the strings and horn sections are as lush as a Gil Evans arrangement but as tight as Manny Albam's. There are truly expansive and adventurous moments here, as on "Flite," introduced by a Rhodes piano with the rhythmic pulse set in play by rolling drum breaks and a skeletal but beautifully articulate upright bassline. Solo space is accorded sparingly while incorporating the entire orchestra -- the brass section (killer trombones), which becomes a bedrock for reining everyone in, is itself sassy and swaggering, holding the fort against edgy funky guitars and those dreamy piano chords. This gives way to the spidery beginnings of "Familiar Ground," which seem like minimal soundscapes for single instruments abstractly lilting and disappearing in the ether until nearly the three-minute mark when the piece comes into view with its body. When the choral vocals announce themselves so wordlessly and surreally, the effect is complete and it goes on for another five minutes or so before Vogel turns in a stellar performance. Soloists are allowed to let fly in places and let abstraction into the fold for a bit before Swinscoe calls everything back to a lush and disciplined order. In concert, the track "To Build a Home," sung by guitarist Reverend with backing from Vogel, was more conceptual than arresting -- seemingly owing much to Coldplay and the Moody Blues. Here it becomes a true Cinematic Orchestra offering, with a languid, sad, dramatic kind of tension without being overwrought. The appearance of the nearly 12-minute "Man with a Movie Camera" jam is wonderfully noir-ish and puts on display all that this group has to offer instrumentally. This ambitious composition and difficult arrangement, which walks a line between film music, late-era jazz improv, classical, and cabaret music, is still grounded -- even with the cracking extended drum breaks; distorted turntable scratches; soprano, tenor, and alto sax flights; and guitar noise. The closer features Rhodes bringing her unique plaintive voice to "Time and Space." Its melancholy is heartbreak personified but balanced by a glimmer of hope, borne out by the dreamy, gauzy strings and countered with the ominous sampler and turntable sounds. As cellos and grand piano stretch the middle to accommodate both ends of this spectrum, the feeling of sadness and resolve is almost unbearable -- not for the emotion, but for its indescribable beauty -- before Rhodes is drawn back out to bring it, and the evening, to a close. The album is a truly moving demonstration of this group's amazing gifts; the DVD presentation will no doubt leave you open-mouthed in a quiet kind of awe. ~ Thom Jurek
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Electro - Released April 5, 2010 | Late Night Tales

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Electro - Released October 10, 2002 | Ninja Tune

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Electro - Released September 1, 1999 | Ninja Tune

Whether to categorize Motion as a jazz or electronica album is an intriguing conundrum, because it truly turns out to be a combination of both musical forms, and it is an unequivocally brilliant combination, at that. British arranger/programmer J. Swinscoe -- who virtually is the Cinematic Orchestra -- gathered samples of drum grooves, basslines, and melodies from various recordings and artists that have inspired and influenced him (spaghetti-western composer Ennio Morricone and Roy Budd's spy film scores, '60s and '70s jazz and soundtrack scores from musicians such as Elvin Jones, Eric Dolphy, Andre Previn, David Rose, and John Morris). He then presented the samples that he had collected to a group of musicians, the core of which consisted of Tom Chant (soprano sax, electric and acoustic piano), Jamie Coleman (trumpet, flugelhorn), Phil France (bass), and T. Daniel Howard (drums), to learn and then improvise. Those tracks, in turn, were sampled and rearranged by Swinscoe on computer to create the tracks that make up this first Cinematic Orchestra album. The album bears all of the atmospheric hallmarks of ambient electronica, as well as Swinscoe's soundtrack inspirations and all the improvisational energy of jazz. Most of the songs are built with wave upon wave of repeated loops and instrumental phrases that work into a groove. Yet it feels at any moment as if the music is about to explode, like a steam whistle boiling to its screaming point. On "One to the Big Sea," for example, the same four-note bassline plays over and over with the same ride cymbal rhythm, but instead of seeming rote or mechanical, the riff just seems to continually bubble up and throb, slowly building anticipation and pressure. When a looped piano riff and horn charts enter the music, the juxtaposition seems almost jarring; yet, as they continue to repeat, in turn, atop the bass and cymbals, you can't help but feel that you're waiting for another dramatic leap, which eventually comes by way of the song's cornerstone: a thrilling drum solo. Each song is just as accomplished in its own way, so expertly arranged by Swinscoe that the impression of both structure and improvisation is created, while never sounding for a moment anything less than organic. The music is constructed piece by piece until it is a seamless whole that lives and breathes on its own merits, much like the soundscapes of DJ Shadow. Regardless of how they were made, though, the songs on Motion are by turns eerie, lush, edgy, expansive, gritty, intensely powerful, and gorgeous. Sometimes an album comes along that forces you to reconfigure and re-evaluate all of the assumptions you had previously made about music in order to realize how vast and endless the possibilities are; this is one of those albums. ~ Stanton Swihart
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Electro - Released September 1, 1999 | Ninja Tune

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Electro - Released August 6, 2007 | Ninja Tune

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Electro - Released November 13, 2000 | Ninja Tune

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Electro - Released April 22, 2002 | Ninja Tune

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Electro - Released April 9, 2007 | Ninja Tune

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Electro - Released January 30, 1999 | Ninja Tune

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Electro - Released April 14, 2003 | Ninja Tune