It was the night of the orchestras. Taking over Rock City, support act Submotion Orchestra charmed the crowd with their heart-wobbling electronic bass music, ambient vocals and climaxing trumpet play.
The return of the phenomenal Ruby Wood (she was off last year having a baby) took me back to the first time I saw the musical cohort from Leeds back in 2011 under a sticky European night sky. Since then they have produced four albums -two of which have been critically acclaimed and become a sought-after act to play at festivals around the world.
Performing Time Will Wait you really got a sense of their progressive dub-step sound. Lights flickered like the ocean surface adding to the melodic euphoria created by percussion, keys, bass guitar, drums and trumpet.
Instrumental loops and vocal reverb amplified the Orchestra’s sound, which in itself had no trouble filling the Rock City space. Playing all-time favourite All Yours, the lush chords and harmonic vocals transfixed the audience before the trumpet breakdown ended the set on a true cloud of ecstasy.
With the crowd chatting in anticipation, the wait before fellow Ninja Tune label-mate The Cinematic Orchestra filled the stage felt like (even though it wasn’t) a long time. The first three to appear took up residence in the corner and started a beautiful and delicate string intro. The sound then bloomed as more of the ensemble took up perch, showing just how multi-layered the group is. Paying no attention to the crowd I felt like this was a glimpse into an orchestral masterclass with each member totally engrossed in their part.
Cinematic to its core, the group indulges in long-form, narrative style of play. In an age of insipid, one-hit radio singles it is refreshing to see this style of music is still popular. Formed in 1999 by DJ and previous Ninja Tune employee Jason Swinscoe, the creative virtuoso was heavily influenced by old jazz records and film scores. Transcending one genre, the full-bodied sound of a classic jazz quartet, strings, various synthesizers and powerful vocals create a spectacle that although grandeur, can also be listened to whilst holding a Red Stripe.
Dimming the lights to dusk-like amber, singers Heidi Vogel and Bev Tawaih added depth and richness to the instrumentation happening on stage. The set felt like it meandered from classical orchestral string moments to electronic jazz-infused brass and keys sections – altogether crafting a cinematic soundscape enhanced by the lighting on stage.
With little to no rest between songs, new tracks J Bird and The Reveal did just the trick for wetting the whistles of all those who are waiting for the fourth album (the first in nine years) to be released next year. Tom Chant delighted the crowd with a saxophone looping solo receiving one of the loudest applauses of the night.
The authentic jazz voice of Melanie De Biasio then joined the ensemble on stage hypnotically lulling the crowd. Single Breathe definitely stood out for me and seemed to pay homage to the incredible soulful voice of Fontella Bass.
Ending with perhaps one of their most exotic and chaotic songs, the 10-minute epic Man With The Movie Camera showed everyone just how freeform the Orchestra can be. A difficult task but one carried out flawlessly was to come back for the encore and perform a stripped back version of To build A Home. Having built up so much energy previously it was incredible to see Larry D. Brown silence the crowd with his vocals and guitar playing. Finishing off with Ode To the Big Sea, a shout out has to go to Luke Flowers who destroyed the drums with his ‘Whiplash’ style of play. All That You Give then finished the night emphasising the group’s Jazztronica roots.
The Cinematic Orchestra are understatedly epic and the only way to really appreciate how well crafted their music is is to see them live. If I had one critique it would be that the 2-hour set felt a bit long but then again these guys are real musicians – so I’m pretty sure they don’t care what anyone thinks.
Review By: Anna Butler
Photo Credits:Kit Powis Page