For the last 18 years Jason Swinscoe has perfected his evocative blend of jazz, soul, beats and soundtrack-friendly sounds as the creative force behind The Cinematic Orchestra. Their fastidious, unhurried approach to making music is evident in tonight’s set at Somerset House which consists predominantly of revisiting tracks from their back catalogue – despite a new album being due for release later this year.
They open in confident fashion with arguably their signature piece Man With The Movie Camera. The rolling breakbeats and airborne brass combine to create a suitably panoramic and sun-kissed sound which doesn’t appear to have dated at all in the last 15 years. It remains quintessential Cinematic Orchestra and sets the bar high for the rest of the show. It is followed by Channel 1 Suite, another track which well represents their core sound but tonight is also indicative of a wider trend – namely, that it improves and becomes more animated the longer the band play. Swinscoe directs proceedings from behind his synthesisers at the side of the stage and while certain components of the band shine, it is noticeable that others like the string trio aren’t working quite as well.
They have always benefited from guest vocalists over the years, and the same applies to tonight’s show. Heidi Vogel in particular impresses on the softer Familiar Ground early on, which is another track that improves as the sax spin-offs get greater towards the end. She returns during the encore for a stark, slow burning version of All That You Give. Moses Sumney (who had earlier opened with a solo set) provides striking vocals to save latest single To Believe from underwhelming, while guitarist LD Brown takes vocals for a reconfigured To Build A Home. On the whole it doesn’t carry the emotional weight of the original, although still manages to offer its fair share of attractions.
Occasionally they sound overly clinical and practised, for example on Ode To The Big Sea, although this is again ultimately salvaged in impressive style largely due to the work of Luke Flowers on drums. There’s also times when you find yourself willing them to go a little further and break free of the blueprint that seems to exert a controlling power over their set. The over-arching brass of Burn Out sees them fulfil this wish this towards the end and Flite is another late highlight, sparkling in brisk, concise fashion.
A sense of restraint is undoubtedly an important part of their musical make-up but tonight’s fairly short show could have benefited from them imposing themselves on the occasion a little more strongly. They are masters of the slow build and gradual release but overall it was hard to escape the feeling that tonight’s show felt a touch safe, if undoubtedly accomplished. Hopefully the new album will energise them into bolder territory.