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Electronic/Dance - Released May 13, 2002 | Ninja Tune

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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

Electronic/Dance - Released May 27, 2003 | Ninja Tune

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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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Electronic/Dance - Released March 15, 2019 | Domino Recording Co

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Over a decade after the release of 2007's Ma Fleur, the Cinematic Orchestra return with their fourth album of expansive soundscapes, To Believe. During the gap between efforts, the primary duo of Jason Swinscoe and Dominic Smith remained active with multiple projects (including a Disney soundtrack, a live album, and a compilation of tracks composed for avant-garde short films), but didn't return focus to their core material until late 2016. Emerging three years later with To Believe, the pair toned down the overt jazziness of Ma Fleur -- consider this set more "Time and Space" than "Ma Fleur" -- retaining their meandering nature and elevating the music to a new level of elegance and beauty. A fresh crop of guest vocalists were recruited to do the heavy lifting, with Moses Sumney suffusing the title track with drama and gravity; Roots Manuva layering warmth and a pulsing heartbeat to the beat-forward "A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life"; and labelmate L.D. Brown (aka Grey Reverend) doing his best José González-fronting-Alt-J on the swirling "Zero One/This Fantasy." Soulful English vocalist Tawiah appears from the ether to deliver a scene-stealing performance on "Wait for Now/Leave the World," much like Heidi Vogel on the expansive 11-minute closer, "A Promise," which briefly glitters to life in a surprise burst that pleases as much as it disappoints, simply for not lasting long enough. On the instrumental side, the uplifting "Lessons" evokes Radiohead at their most experimental and glitchy, while the deceptively gorgeous "The Workers of Art" sweeps with bittersweet tenderness. Although these seven songs mostly float from here to there -- a sometimes frustrating collection of ideas that tease resolution without any satisfying denouement -- the atmosphere that the Cinematic Orchestra creates is evocative and spurs the imagination. To Believe is very much an experience that requires engagement if a worthwhile connection is desired; otherwise, it makes for a terrific soundtrack to a film that resides purely in the soul. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
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Film Soundtracks - Released December 8, 2008 | Walt Disney Records

Electronic/Dance - Released October 10, 2002 | Ninja Tune

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Electronic/Dance - Released September 1, 1999 | Ninja Tune

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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

Electronic/Dance - Released September 1, 1999 | Ninja Tune

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Electronic/Dance - Released November 13, 2000 | Ninja Tune

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Electronic/Dance - Released January 15, 2019 | Domino Recording Co

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Electronic/Dance - Released April 22, 2002 | Ninja Tune

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Electronic/Dance - Released February 13, 2019 | Domino Recording Co

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Electronic/Dance - Released January 30, 1999 | Ninja Tune

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Electronic/Dance - Released April 14, 2003 | Ninja Tune

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