Saturday, February 09, 2008

Cinematic Orchestra - Ma Fleur

Ma Fleur (CD) – Ninja Tune

Who was it said, "It's not the notes that count, but the spaces in between"? Maestro Justin Swinscoe understands that principle and wields it masterfully as he fronts Cinematic Orchestra’s latest offering Ma Fleur. Beginning with Patrick Watson’s quavering, Antony-esque vocals on "That Home" and ending with the same, this fourth disk from Swincoe and crew proves a modest, but refined affair. American soul singer Fontella Bass joins the British-based Orchestra again on “Familiar Ground” and "Breathe," which gives Pink Floyd a casual nod along the way. Former Lamb torch singer Lou Rhodes' smoky vocals probably aren’t used to full effect on "Time and Space," but the song does build grandly, slouching through its notes, creating a dark, sexy atmosphere along the way. Those who have enjoyed the Orchestra’s purely instrumental music will find much to enjoy here, too, with tunes like “As the Stars Fall” for moody movies not yet made. It’s the closer that’s worth hanging around for though: Ma Fleur culminates with Watson’s goose-bump inducing contributions on both piano and vocals for "To Build a Home," a lengthy reprise that fully delivers on the promise of the opening track. It’s the most exquisite song I’ve heard this year. Swinscoe orchestrates this mellifluous closer primarily with Watson’s voice and his spare piano, eventually enjoining strings and finally double bass. – Robert Stribley

This review was originally published in Skyscraper Magazine, Issue 26 (Fall 2007)

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