Cinematic Orchestra traverses that narrow divide between acoustic jazz and the electro-infused acid jazz of predecessors and contemporaries like St. Germain, Groove Collective and DJ Greyboy. But the Orchestra treads new ground with Ma Fleur
. Jazz breaks become atmospheric compositions of grand proportions, soulful grooves become haunting melodies and the "orchestra of Cinematic's moniker becomes ever more apparent.
Producer and Cinematic mastermind J. Swinscoe's last effort was Man With A Movie Camera (Ninja Tune, 2003), and Ma Fleur, picks up just where Camera left off. Thematically, Ma Fleur presents ten stories, ten contemplative and introspective narratives, each with its own soundtrack and listener-provided images.
"Familiar Ground tugs at you like a letter from a loved one who is too far away to touch. The slow and steady cross-stick pattern, choir vocals in crescendo and the repetitive lament of the lyrics "how near - tell me how far pull the heartstrings like few songs can.
The title track features a lonely trumpet; and again, the self-induced imagery is hard to ignore. The trumpeter stands on a balcony overlooking the rain-drenched city, accompanied only by an unseen pianist, singing a song of solace. Exit stage right and end scene.
"Music Box continues the theme of loneliness and isolation, with barely whispered vocals sung solely for the vocalist himself, accompanying a delicately plucked guitar. "Time and Space feels like the album's centerpiece, a dreamy soundscape representing a moment of dramatic change in the life of our ever-introspective narrator. Lightly swung drums paired with drunken, heavy-handed piano chords and a female voicesung from lips begging to be kissedgive this track richness and depth.
"As the Stars Fall recalls the work of fellow Ninja Tune artists like Kid Koala and Amon Tobin; more electronica than anything else on Ma Fleur. The legendary Fontella Bass, a frequent Cinematic Orchestra collaborator, is again showcased on "Breathe. Her vocals feel like a dying mother's final admission of closure: "Oh that weight is lifted, lifted off me. It carries me out to the sea and swallows me. And swallows me into the deep.
Less "jazz than previous Cinematic releases, Ma Fleur may be one of the best releases of its catalog and a promising look to the future of the Orchestra's material. A soundtrack without a movie, a daydream without a dreamer, Ma Fleur is rainy day melodrama of unrivaled grandeur.