The Cinematic Orchestra's To Believe: What You Need To Know
The Cinematic Orchestra's Jason Swinscoe may not be someone that most people could easily pick out of a line-up, but you're unlikely to find many people who aren't familiar with at least some of his music. Their song 'To Build a Home', taken from the experimental jazz/electronica collective's 2007 album Ma Fleur, has been streamed more than 165 million times and has been featured in everything from Waitrose adverts to TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy, Friday Night Lights and Orange is the New Black, as well as being chosen as the backing track for not one but two figure skating routines at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
In the 12 years that have elapsed since Ma Fleur's release, Swinscoe has kept himself busy with various projects, including a series of live performances with The Cinematic Orchestra and providing the score for Disney's 2008 documentary Crimson Wings, which charts the migratory habits of flamingoes.
This week however he returns alongside his creative partner Dominic Smith for The Cinematic Orchestra's first new album in more than a decade. To Believe, the group's fourth studio album in all, makes its long-awaited arrival in stores today. Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Swinscoe and Smith began talking up the prospect of a new Cinematic Orchestra album as far back as 2016, even going so far as to release the album's title track, which features vocals from Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Moses Sumney. At the time, a projected release date of 'early 2017' was being mooted, but the whole year – and the one after that – came and went, with no new album on the horizon.
Then in January this year, the group unveiled another new track from the upcoming album, ‘A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life', featuring vocals by one of their previous collaborators, Roots Manuva, along with the album's release date. Another new track from the album, 'A Promise', followed in its wake last month.
Who's producing it?
Swinscoe and Smith are overseeing all the production on the new album themselves.
Any special guests?
Along with Roots Manuva and Moses Sumney there are also guest appearances from British soul singer Tawiah, who adds vocals to 'Wait for Now / Leave the World', Ninja Tune labelmate Grey Reverend, who puts in a shift on 'Zero One / This Fantasy', and Heidi Vogel, who appears on the album's epic closing track 'A Promise'.
What does it sound like?
In a word: expansive. To Believe comprises just seven tracks, but still clocks in at just shy of 54 minutes, giving it almost exactly the same runtime Ma Fleur, despite containing four fewer tracks than its predecessor. We mention this only because where Ma Fleur leaned slightly more towards more traditional song structures, To Believe has more in common with The Cinematic Orchestra's earlier, more exploratory work.
That said, the opening title track is a bit of a red herring in that regard and wouldn't have been too out of place on Ma Fleur's tracklist, and the jazz influence seems far less prevalent than on their first two albums.
On 'A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life', urgent rhythms underpin Roots Manuva's trademark drawl before giving way to a climactic orchestral flourish, while the album's climactic closing salvo 'A Promise' is almost the exact opposite, where dreamy strings merge with ethereal synths before steadily building to a finale of fidgety, stuttering breakbeats.
Does it deliver?
With such a long gap between albums, it's difficult to say what fans will be expecting, but the new album combines some of the longer, more free-flowing kind of tracks of their early years with the more vocal-heavy style featured on Ma Fleur, while still evolving into something new altogether. To Believe is an album that certainly deserves to be listened to in its entirety and, for anyone who does, it's quite the journey.