Plodding and Lofty, but Rewarding
Quiet in your seats, everyone. To begin: Much like at the cinema, a solid narrative has a way of cohering the chaos, allaying apprehensive minds to some degree. Though there are many influences swirling around in their mix, The Cinematic Orchestra, led by multi-instrumentalist J. Swinscoe, keep a fairly close grip on the comforts of a narrative structure. With their new release, In Motion #1, there is a tangible and cohesive flow to the work. This proves an especially notable accomplishment considering the variety of talented artists featured. Though the label reads “The Cinematic Orchestra,” the packaging doesn’t shy away from the fact that excellent instrumentalists like Grey Reverend (Guitar) and Tom Chant (Saxophone, String Arrangements) contribute a great deal to the work. And though it might not excuse itself from the ponderous moments typical of a work featuring no track less than eight minutes, the dramatic builds of tension throughout the album make it an enjoyable listen.
The album begins rather tentatively with “Necrology” and “Lapis,” which both lay heavy on the proceeded and synthesized soundscapes. As introductions go, it does not quite prepare the listener for the range lying ahead, but from a narrative perspective, it smartly starts things small and sparse.
The tension begins to build with the third track, “Outer Space,” which introduces a screeching, almost free-jazz like saxophone by Chant to the proceedings (channeling Sun Ra’s Cinematic Arkestra?) which later bleeds into the next track, “Dream Work.” The latter track is more macroscopic in that it combines the assorted sounds of the record up to that point in a most pleasing way. One might even say the sound here almost gushes from the speakers. That is, if “gushes” could be used in a relative sense.
After the introduction of this tension, the Orchestra settles into a more classical sounding mood with the collection of little suites that make up the twenty-minute “Entr’acte” and the gorgeous, descending acoustic guitar-led “Regen.” The latter track works best from an aural and narrative flow, as its subdued yet beautiful melodies find a nice synthesis between the natural and manufactured sounds the album has to offer.
With the cycle of death, (“Necrology”) to life (“Regen”) completed, In Motion #1 ends on a lush and heroic note with “Manhatta,” perhaps serving as a soundtrack to the 1921 short film of the same name. When the warm, if slightly melancholic strings breathe through the speakers, the listener is bound to feel a little rewarded for this long a listening journey. Coming in at almost 80 minutes long, In Motion is bursting at the seams. But the music is at its most dramatic—one might even say cinematic—and affecting for its finish, giving the pieces which preceded it a nice and authoritative close.