It's been nearly 5 years since the release of Every Day, The Cinematic Orchestra's finest moment, and anyone who was as totally captivated and seduced by that record as I was would have been eagerly awaiting Jason Swinscoe's next move. The difference between Every Day and Ma Fleur is not too dissimilar a progression from that of debut Motion and Every Day. 1999's Motion seemed to appear out of nowhere and totally went against the run of fashion for contemporary music. Its hypnotic jazz constructions and smoldering film-noir ambiance soon made The Cinematic Orchestra the jewell in the Ninja crown. The follow up took all of the mood from Motion but showed an amazing maturity in progression. It was single minded in its approach and totally dedicated in its focus. It was a truly timeless record and one that would be very hard to follow.
Ma Fleur shows the same degree of progression. Swinscoe has spent years learning from his last record and this is the sound an artist getting closer to his goal. It's a concept album of sorts and is adventurous to say the least. It's the soundtrack to an imaginary film and was constructed during an elaborate back and forth process between Swinscoe and a script writer. The instrumentals were created first then a series of short story scripts were written for these with each track representing a scene. Swinscoe then reworked the music in light of the script and the process continued. The album is supposed to map the journey we all go through from birth to death and the emotions that underpin the three main stages in life. It features three vocalists who represent these stages, starting with Patrick Watson then Mercury nominated Lou Rhodes and finishing with the legendary Fontella Bass who's deep, soulful vocals provided the majority of Every Day with such grandeur and here express perfectly the feelings of loss and regret of the elderly protagonist.
The scale of ambition of this project is awesome and it's what makes it so special, but also what lets it down in places. As always the quality of Swinscoe's production and collaborators is impeccable. Patrick Watson's opener To Build A Home is achingly beautiful and his crescendo vocal range matched with the soaring orchestration makes this song and much of Watson's input a clear highlight. The Cinematic Orchestra has always been synonymous with jazz but Ma Fleur relies less on these techniques. The mood of this grand concept is what is important here and that has dictated the form of the music, resulting in a much more orchestrated structure. It's this structure that really separates this from the other 2 albums. The clear cinematic feel to it makes it flow perfectly as a record and as a film score. The songs are hard to separate and it has obviously been constructed as a whole piece. There is a lot more space between the notes here and when the long delicate periods of orchestration are punctuated with the signature jazz sound it's quite powerful. It's far more contemplative and the definite narrative that runs through it makes it far less immediate than previous records.
This is an overwhelmingly melancholic record and its strict narrative results at times in an album that takes itself way too seriously. The initial beauty wears thin towards the middle and you just want everyone to cheer up. Thankfully the final track Time And Space finishes this journey off superbly. Lou Rhodes has such a delicate and tender approach that gives this song a real feeling of hope. It's a perfect finale and has the quality of a soundtrack to the closing scenes of an epic movie. In these final scenes everything is explained, the pain and sorrow are given a reason and amidst this explanation we are comforted and gently assured that the characters we have been following will be alright. This is a beautifully tender album and though it may not be as immediately satisfying as Every Day it is a worthy successor and continues Swinscoe's reputation as the visionary captain behind this ever pioneering vessel.
11th Apr 2007 - Tumblr3.5
Live At The Royal Albert Hall
You Don't Know
Decent Aussie surf drama, that nostalgically investigates the soul of surfing before losing i… https://t.co/qW3B55bCcG.
14th Aug 2019Read more star reviews
Somewhat unremarkable, but enjoyable music drama. Bit long.
13th Jul 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Predictably grim seaside coming-of-age indie. Decent enough, but you’ve seen it before
13th Jul 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Stylish sequel, hampered in places by some authentic 1960s pacing.
30th Jun 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Out-there kids fable with an old school Tim Burton vibe.
16th Jun 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Rock solid 90s style indie movie. Beautifully assembled at all levels.
31st May 2019Read more 4 star reviews
Fairly one-sided Police doc about the seemingly dislikeable trio.
7th May 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Decent, but slightly muddled parenting indie.
28th Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Forgettable re-imagining of a not totally unforgettable Disney classic.
27th Apr 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Solid stop-motion animation that’s light on plot, but high on charm.
12th Apr 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
Surprisingly stylish sequel that drops the ball in classic straight-to-VHS style halfway through.
6th Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Opaque Alaskan thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, with little regard for convention.
1st Apr 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Low key indie spin on Rambo, as a father and daughter try and live off grid.
28th Mar 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Fun biopic that runs out of steam about when the band did.
25th Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
A diminished remake of Deadpool 1. Occasional LOLs.
25th Mar 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
High concept sci-fi that stretches its concept a little thin.
19th Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Unremarkable, cliche-ridden actioner. Utterly lacking in suspense.
17th Mar 2019Read more 2.5 star reviews
A disjointed patchwork of homages, nods and rip offs from dozens of other movies, with little to offer of its own.
11th Mar 2019Read more 2 star reviews
Laborious, high-concept alien horror. While the concept is good, the beats are all well telegraphed.
2nd Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Witty, if a little obvious, post-meta rom-com.
1st Mar 2019Read more 3 star reviews
The Second Part
It’s literally a re-hash of all the themes of the first one with a few less jokes.
23rd Feb 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Slight, but sometime engaging iPhone feature.
26th Jan 2019Read more 3 star reviews
Decent modern spin on Mary Poppins. Bit uneven, but a nice soundtrack helps things along.
20th Jan 2019Read more 3.5 star reviews
Bog standard entry into The-Rock-action-movie genre. As much personality as a computer game.
3rd Jan 2019Read more 3 star reviews
This time it’s really, really serious. Seriously.
27th Dec 2018Read more 3 star reviews
It’s a musical ...but slick direction makes it just about bearable.
24th Dec 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Pop-culture bouillabaisse, hampered by numerous terrible accents.
24th Dec 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Pacey, emotional, old-fashioned indie pic. Beautifully observed.
15th Dec 2018Read more 4 star reviews
Surprisingly underwhelming biopic that doesn’t find its feet until 20m from the end.
24th Nov 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Utterly derivative / thoroughly enjoyable ‘Heat’ rip off.
21st Nov 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Well crafted character study, with some nice touches.
10th Nov 2018Read more 4 star reviews
Brutal revenge thriller. Stylish and violent, with plenty of explanation left to the imagination.
4th Nov 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Intense indie drama from Netflix. Impeccably acted and directed.
27th Oct 2018Read more 4 star reviews
Disappointingly unoriginal superhero movie, complete with dull CGI action.
27th Oct 2018Read more 2 star reviews
Continually clichéd rock romance that never breaks into originality.
13th Oct 2018Read more 1.5 star reviews
Dry Morrissey biopic that gets arty by avoiding using any Smiths songs.
7th Oct 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Decent rehash of vintage indie movie tropes.
7th Oct 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Mumblingly wordy western that’s big on self-importance and low on drama and tension.
25th Sep 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Muddled biopic with occasional moments of eccentric comedy madness.
22nd Sep 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Like a long episode of Girls that’s all about one of the more boring characters.
16th Sep 2018Read more 2 star reviews
Slightly confused slice of post-Michael Mann LA crime.
7th Sep 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Sympathetic retread of Single White Female, with added #hashtags.
26th Aug 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Welcome to the Jungle
Fun updated reboot with added Breakfast Club.
26th Aug 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Low-tide mark for super hero movies. I only finished watching to see how bad it could get.
14th Aug 2018Read more 1 star reviews
It’s a cover version of every other Mallick pic, but the setting is inspired and the improv from Gosling is enjoyably enthusiastic.
8th Aug 2018Read more 3 star reviews
Well written, well paced sequel. Surprisingly competent and heartwarming.
4th Aug 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
70s pot boiler that lazily meanders through a series of mediocre set pieces.
23rd Jul 2018Read more 2.5 star reviews
Enjoyable change of pace for the super hero genre. Comedy wins.
21st Jul 2018Read more 3.5 star reviews
Great concept, but shoddily directed and utterly devoid of jeopardy.
17th Jul 2018Read more 2 star reviews