Over a decade since their last studio album, The Cinematic Orchestra are back with a new collection of songs and a mostly new range of collaborators. The style of To Believe is much less in keeping with the nu-jazz stylings of Motion and Every Day, much more the emotive ad music of 2007’s To Build A Home, and as such the solos are nonexistent and the orchestra manifests itself mainly as a syrupy string section.
Whether this is a disappointment or a happy turn of events depends on what aspect of their work you appreciated more in the first place, but the build that comes in the second half of the Moses Sumney-featuring title track is undeniably powerful. His falsetto glides over the top of the track’s ascending chord sequence, complementing the austere arrangement of the previous 3 minutes very well.
To Believe’s other pre-released single, A Caged Bird/Imitations Of Life, wraps up with interesting ambient textures but the bustling rhythm that dominates the track relegates it to documentary soundtrack fodder. The extended instrumental workout Lessons fares better however, with neat 6/8 ostinatos bringing to mind Four Tet’s Circling and a similar mesmerising effect created by the mounting layers.
Zero One/This Fantasy snakes around a supremely elegant chord sequence and Grey Reverend’s smooth vocals fit perfectly, but it is the album’s final track A Promise that really stands out. Glistening synths adorn a lengthy intro with sung phrases from Heidi Vogel slowly unfurl (“I pray / the rain / will wash / the pain, from me”) before the pace kicks up and the track’s finale becomes all crashing drums and imposing bass. To Believe is a worthy return for The Cinematic Orchestra, developing their sound while keeping the trademark fusion between electronic and orchestral that Swinscoe and co. do so well.