Album Review: To Believe by The Cinematic Orchestra
Very Good, Based on 6 Critics
Exclaim - 90 Based on rating 9/10
It will surprise virtually no one that the latest from the Cinematic Orchestra is a drop-dead gorgeous slice of lush, soulful electronic pop. It is what they do, arguably better than anyone on the global stage.
Also unsurprising is how founders Jason Swinscoe and Dominic Smith went about building their followup to the exquisite Ma Fleur. The same ingredients that made their 2007 masterwork such a wonder are all here: romantic guest vocals, melancholy orchestration and songwriting compelling enough to make even their instrumentals sound ….
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.
Over a decade after the release of 2007's Ma Fleur, the Cinematic Orchestra return with their fourth album of expansive soundscapes, To Believe. During the gap between efforts, the primary duo of Jason Swinscoe and Dominic Smith remained active with multiple projects (including a Disney soundtrack, a live album, and a compilation of tracks composed for avant-garde short films), but didn't return focus to their core material until late 2016. Emerging three years later with To Believe, the pair toned down the overt jazziness of Ma Fleur -- consider this set more "Time and Space" than "Ma Fleur" -- retaining their meandering nature and elevating the music to a new level of elegance and beauty.
The Cinematic Orchestra 's first three albums trod the path between jazz, pop and electronica, at a time where the music critic's gaze was still broadly pointed at guitars (the year Every Day came out, Interpol held Pitchfork's album of the year). Motion's lush arrangements and intriguing rhythms introduced Cinematic Orchestra's unique blend of jazz and electronica in 1999. Every Day followed it up four years later, opening the door to broader tastes by adding some vocal tracks, and Ma Fleur five years after that pushed even harder on pop's door with features from experimental pop balladeer Patrick Watson amongst others.
We're living in an age of jazz revival. While the genre never disappeared - especially for those most engaged with it - it has had a more than notable resurgence in the popular sphere over the last few years. We've had epic crossover records in genres spanning from hip hop to electronic to ambient (from Kendrick Lamar, Noname, Anderson .Paak, Floating Points, Leon Vynehall, to name a few), nor is there any shortage of exciting new British names who identify more explicitly with the 'jazz' epithet (Yussef Dayes, Kamaal Williams, Zara McFarlane, Ezra Collective, Sons of Kemet, Moses Boyd).
In the now crowded field of acts combining neo-classical jazz with electronic sensibilities, genre progenitors The Cinematic Orchestra remain a band apart. There's an elegance to their music that marks them out, a gracefulness that has grown in their 11-year absence. Where previous albums soared high, 'To Believe' glides low. Jason Swinscoe and co.