The Cinematic Orchestra
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Latest ReleaseView All
Release date: 3.15.19
Label: Domino/Ninja Tune
Press Releases View All
The Cinematic Orchestra Release 1st Album In 12 Years ‘To Believe,’ Out Today On Domino/Ninja TuneRead More
The Cinematic Orchestra Announces First US Performance In A Decade At LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall On November 23rd, 2019Read More
The Cinematic Orchestra Releases New Song “A Promise” (Feat. Heidi Vogel) From First Album In 12 Years ‘To Believe’ (3/15, Domino/Ninja Tune)Read More
The Cinematic Orchestra, the British electronic duo founded by Jason Swinscoe and co-helmed by Dominic Smith, will return with their first album in 12 years - To Believe, out March 15 on Domino/Ninja Tune. Over the course of the album’s 7 sweeping tracks, Swinscoe and his longtime artistic partner Smith explore a timeless question of vital importance in 2019 - what to believe?
The question of belief is one that has long simmered in the minds of Swinscoe and Smith. This album is a meditation on belief: an attempt to examine the shaky foundations which underpin it, while also emphasising its importance to our lives. “The prerequisite of everything in life is belief both good and bad”, Smith says. “So what should we believe in?...or what can we believe in and also importantly why do we believe in something?".
To Believe features contributions from collaborators old and new: vocalists Moses Sumney, Heidi Vogel, Grey Reverend (featured on Bonobo’s 'First Fires’), Dorian Concept and Tawiah (Mark Ronson, Kindness), with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (Flying Lotus, Anderson Paak, Thundercat, Hiatus Kaiyote) on strings. The record was mixed by GRAMMY-winner Tom Elmhirst (David Bowie, Frank Ocean, Adele) at Electric Lady studios in New York City.
In 2007, not long after the release of the album Ma Fleur, Swinscoe moved to Brooklyn, with a tremendous optimism suited to the new landscape. Coming to America meant immersing himself in an entirely new scene and drawing nearer to influences that had informed his collecting and creating from day one. “I think the cities I’ve lived in have had an effect on my perspective both personally and musically,” he says. “The dynamics of a city change the energy and pace of all things, but particularly music.” However, once in Brooklyn, Swinscoe found himself faced with too many options. Too much of anything – cash, booze, praise, time, voices eager to help – creates noise without isolating any one sound’s resonance. More studio toys had been acquired, more minds added to the band’s songwriting hive, more confidence in exploring the unfamiliar, and with it more potential paths to tread. Time pressed on. Trying, trying, trying. Five years, and not one bulb flashed in Swinscoe’s swinging through the dark. Then Dominic Smith made a centuries-old suggestion: where better to rediscover brightness than further into the American west?
So off to LA they went. Swinscoe landed in his LA bungalow and unboxed only his sampler, a throwback to his earliest days of composing on a Korg with so little memory that each saved sample necessitated perfection. Simplifying and re-connecting to both a process and a kinship that came naturally to them was an energetic turning point, and one by one others were to come into the fold, always out of some destined happenstance, seemingly magnetized too.
As the band’s musical web spun itself back into form, Swinscoe and Smith also began to explore different means of articulation; they’d always buried messages in metaphorical lyrics and artwork, but something made their delivery now feel more important, more urgent. Both longed for the time when music felt inherently and inescapably political, yet as the album began to come together it felt as though no one was sounding out a rally cry – this was still pre-Brexit, pre-Trump, before music began to find its voice of resistance again, if only out of necessity.
The record was also made with narrative in mind, with instrumental pauses from imagined movie scenes interjecting at just the right moments; something that the band has honed through several scores composed for films - “Man With A Movie Camera”, released as an album in 2003, was the result of a commission in 2001 for the opening event for the Porto’s year as European City of Culture; and in 2008, Swinscoe wrote an original film score for Disney’s “The Crimson Wing”, a feature-length nature documentary.
In 2019 it is easy to see The Cinematic Orchestra’s influence - their critically-acclaimed 1999 debut album ‘Motion’ helped pave the way for today’s modern jazz landscape, and encouraged a new generation of musicians to break rules. To Believe doesn’t shy away from this ethos - its articulation of the band’s unique sonic language, encompassing not only jazz but the sort of transcendental orchestration combined with the elegant electronics of artists like Ólafur Arnalds and Floating Points (artists they have helped forge a path for) - has never been more cohesive and compelling. On To Believe, Swinscoe and Smith continue to make music with an expansive vision, while also scaling up their ambition. To Believe was recorded on a bigger scale geographically, with the record built from sessions in New York and London and LA. Album closer ‘A Promise’, is a prime example of its broad connections, featuring longtime collaborator Heidi Vogel: assured and grandiose, accompanied by LA’s Miguel Atwood Ferguson’s mesmerising string arrangements; it’s a slow-burn release of the hopeful energy that’s pent up on the record.
Other collaborators include Larry Brown, whose vocals as Grey Reverend take centre stage on ‘Zero One / This Fantasy’, a song which circles around the record’s key theme of belief. In this case, it nods to the ideas of the academic Anil Seth, whose ideas about reality – specifically, how everyone’s idea of it is socially constructed – was a big influence on Smith and Swinscoe. As Reverend’s lyrics muse, “In this fantasy / Everyone is someone to believe,” hinting at the slanted viewpoint through which each of us sees the world. Next comes Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, a figure deeply woven into the Los Angeles musical fabric and an astute addition to the TCO sound. Historically, most of the band’s strings had been arranged “in-house,” rooted in the bank of old film scores, American jazz and funk that both Smith and Swinscoe collected and drew from voraciously. Atwood-Ferguson’s sensibilities as a composer – his sections often in the background, sweeping through the harmonic ether dramatically yet with restraint – were a dynamic accompaniment to many figures in LA circuit at the time, and fit seamlessly alongside those of the Orchestra. His strings recordings across all the tracks on the new record, in collaboration with Swinscoe and Smith, simultaneously give them more float and gravity than ever.
‘Wait For Now / Leave The World’ is another example of the band’s collaborative nature. It features soul singer Tawiah, who appears in Mark Ronson’s band, and who is another artist who’s entered the group’s welcoming orbit before. Her lyrics celebrate the possibilities which can come from moving and leaving your comfort zone. In the track’s opening lines, she sings, “Take my hand and see / Where we could go, when you take the leap.” The song also features masterful keys work, adding extra texture to track’s twinkling effervescence.
In this sense, the band’s recorded absence is less a break than an embrace of its unique relationship with space, with kinship, with dissent, of course with art and sound, but most of all, with one another.
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