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Members include Patrick Carpenter, turntables; Tom Chant, saxophone; John Ellis, keyboards; Luke Flowers, drums; Phil France, acoustic bass; Dan Howard, drums; Jason Swinscoe, composer and producer. Addresses: Record company---Ninja Tune, 222 Dominion #20, Montreal, Quebec H3J2X1, website: http://www.ninjatune.net. Website--Cinematic Orchestra Official Website: http://www.cinematicorchestra.com.
Cinematic Orchestra is regarded by many critics and fans as the brainchild of jazz composer, electronics aficionado, and producer Jason Swinscoe. Swinscoe brought together a group of musicians and vocalists to construct album tracks with a contemporary sound, but which also resonate with subtle references to film composers and jazz artists of the 1960s. The group's first album, Motion, prompted critical comparisons to the music of Herbie Hancock's classic album Headhunters, and to late 1960s' Miles Davis. However, Cinematic Orchestra has maintained its British identity by preferring soul influences to funk. The group often relies on the electric piano of co-composer John Ellis for a highly danceable yet cerebral form of dance jazz, recalling the early 1970s British progressive rock-jazz band Soft Machine and the contemporary Irish disc jockey, film soundtrack composer, and recording artist David Holmes.
In 1990 Swinscoe formed his first band, Crabladder, while enrolled as an art student at Cardiff College in Wales. Crabladder blended jazz and punk music forms, displaying Swinscoe's burgeoning interest in electronic sampling. When Crabladder disbanded in the mid-1990s, Swinscoe honed his sampling skills as a disc jockey at dance clubs and on pirate radio stations. His blending of 1960s' and 1970s' jazz with live jazz performances and electronic loops brought him to the attention of Quebec record label Ninja Tunes in 1997, and the label asked him to contribute to an anthology of electronic music. He contributed a recording for the 1997 anthology Ninja Cuts 3, and released remixes of recordings done originally by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Coldcut. Swinscoe's subsequent recordings with Cinematic Orchestra, according to All Music Guide critic Heather Phares, "built on this musical blueprint, letting a group of live musicians improvise over sampled percussion or basslines." Swinscoe collaborated on the extended play compact disc singles Channel One Suite and Diabolus with fellow Ninja Tunes artists Phil France on bass, Daniel Howard on drums, and saxophonist and keyboard player Tom Chant. The quartet formed the nexus of Cinematic Orchestra's debut album, Motion.
Motion derived from Swinscoe's solicitation of musical ideas from musicians to whom he had sent tape loops and recording samples. The group united in the studio to jam to the backing recording tracks. London's Independent Sunday critic Laurence Phelan took issue with the band's name: "To call this recording 'orchestral' is pushing it to tenuous extremes, but at least it's derived from live studio sessions." The use of samples and a turntable on the recording prompted Phelan to clarify, "Which is not to say it's an over-indulgent mess of styles (although it occasionally it is). But rather that it's a testament to the ever expanding parameters of dance music and a fascinating, listenable, sometimes danceable debut." Other critics hailed the album's release, and the group earned such accolades as an invitation to perform at the Director's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony for Stanley Kubrick in 1999. Motion was also voted album of the year by listeners of Gilles Peterson's Radio One program. Minneapolis Star Tribune critic Rod Smith noted: "British electronica maestro Jason Swinscoe isn't afraid to tackle the big sounds," or to "chop them up and shuffle them around." According to Smith, "The album introduced a welcome blast of vigor and tonal color into a genre too long dominated by the turgid, half-baked minimalism of DJ Shadow and his legions of fully baked imitators."
In 2001 Cinematic Orchestra released Remixes 98-2000, an album of remixes of songs by other artists. The group also released its official follow-up to Motion, the ambitious and critically lauded album Every Day. This sophomore effort marked Swinscoe's full-fledged collaboration with Phil France. For the album, the pair used a string quartet and enlisted the aid of rhythm-and-blues legend Fontella Bass ("Don't Mess Up a Good Thing," "Rescue Me") for the album's opening track, "All That You Give." The song was inspired by Bass's former husband, the late trumpet player Lester Bowie of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Bass also sang on the album track "Evolution." The emotional catharsis stemming from singing a song about her deceased ex-husband caused Bass to cry. "Afterward, she said it was the first time she had let herself really grieve for him," Swinscoe told Smith. Every Day also featured British rap artist Roots Manuva on the song "All Things to All Men." The group began performing live to support their catalog, and received a standing ovation at the 2001 Montreux Jazz Festival.
In 2000 the group was invited to the Porto Film Festival in Portugal, where they performed live to a screening of Dziga Vertov's 1929 silent film Man with a Movie Camera. While the title song appeared on Every Day, Cinematic Orchestra also released the entirety of Swinscoe's score for the film in 2003. Toronto Life writer Mike Doherty wrote of the score: "It's captivating to watch Flowers play the kind of complex, rushing rhythms usually delivered by a sequencer but with spontaneity and visual flair. This orchestra has a beat." Asked by reporters what his plans are for the future, Swinscoe reportedly admitted that he is aiming for the cinematic heights, and hopes to work with major film directors in the future.
by Bruce Walker
Cinematic Orchestra's Career
Group formed in United Kingdom, late 1990s; performed at Director's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony for Stanley Kubrick, 1999; released debut album, Motion, 1999; recorded and released sophomore effort, Every Day, 2002; released 1999 composed film score, Man with a Movie Camera, 2003.
- Selected discography
- Motion Ninja Tune, 1999.
- Remixes 98-2000 Ninja Tune, 2001.
- Every Day Ninja Tune, 2002.
- The Man with the Movie Camera Ninja Tune, 2003.
- Independent Sunday (London, England), October 3, 1999, p. 8; May 25, 2003, p. 15.
- Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), June 27, 2003, p. 05E.
- Toronto Life, June 2003, p. 52.
- "Cinematic Orchestra," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (October 24, 2004).
- Ninja Tune Website, http://www.ninjatune.net (October 24, 2004).
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