The Cinematic Orchestra are back after a 12 year absence with their flourish of art and music with a new album, To Believe. Jason Swinscoe and Dominic Smith have collected contributions from past and new collaborators including vocalists Moses Sumney, Roots Manuva, Heidi Vogel, Grey Reverend, Dorian Concept, among others.
Fans will not be surprised that To Believeis soaked in dreamy, soulful electronic pop. Using the same formula from their 2007 masterwork, Ma Fluer, Swinscoe and Smith have orchestrated To Believe with romantic guest vocals, eloquent melody and poetic songwriting. At first glance, the tracklist is short with only seven tracks. However, each track is thoughtfully drawn out, the shortest number, “To Believe”, coming in at five minutes. Moving through this tracklist, the supreme fluidity of the down-tempo beat creates a soundscape that would be most fitting in a dream.
Title track, “To Believe”, opens the album and features Moses Sumney’s nu-jazz vocal style over the top of gentle guitar strum. LA based Sumney, who has notably collaborated with Beck and Thundercat, fits into the Cinematic Orchestra vibe seamlessly. The music video is blacked-out with “To Believe” neatly place in the centre. A nod to the minimal album artwork, where the letters are black, the white letters “to believe” cast a hopeful light into the solid black background, and provide a visual projection of the album’s own agenda.
Roots Manuva, the infamous English rapper, is next to step up with “A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life”. Manuva previously worked with the Cinematic Orchestra second album Every Day, in 2003. Over the past decade, Manuva’s vice has matured and this can most definitely be heard on the track. Manuva’s voice is urgent as transitions from rapping to singing are highly charged with pent up emotion. Following the style of the To Believe music video, the “A Caged Bird/Imitation of Life” follows the same, highly minimal look.
Heidi Vogel closes the album with “A Promise”. Her eloquent grace is emphasised as the stretched out piece, a whopping 11 minutes worth, gives her room to fully evolve her sound. The track evokes a heartfelt tension with a verse that teeters on the verge of spoken word. After the long and sweeping electro-beats, placing “A Promise” as the last track allows a moment for the listener to regain a consciousness from their dream-like state.
You would be wrong to dismiss artists like The Cinematic Orchestra as background music as their mastery of the genre is so iconic, yet kept subtle and modest, that it seeps into the listener’s everyday creating an accessible space for music and art to co-exist.