May 7th sees the release of the first full studio album by Jason Swinscoe's Cinematic Orchestra since 2002's "Everyday". Entitled "Ma Fleur," the record was written as the soundtrack to a specially commissioned screenplay for an imagined film (which may or may not yet be made).
Shortly after finishing "Everyday," a piece of music which achieved great critical and commercial success (selling over 100,000 units) Jason Swinscoe relocated from East London to Paris. Here he began work on the instrumentals which would form the basis of his new record - more moods than finished tracks, a series of sketches or diagrams of directions to follow. Having completed a rough version by early 2005, he gave this to a friend who disappeared for 3 weeks and came back with short story scripts in which each scene represented a story of a different time in life, expressing the emotions which underpin the journey from birth to death. Jason then took this and worked some more on the tracks, and in turn gave this back to his scriptwriter, the two aspects of the project developing alongside one another.
Gradually, Swinscoe recruited suitable vocalists for the atmospheres and themes he wanted to deal with. The remarkable Fontella Bass, who is now sadly in frail health, is the woman behind both legendary soul number "Rescue Me" as well as some of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's finest moments, had worked on "Everyday" and was an obvious choice to voice the parts of the elderly protagonist that Swinscoe envisaged. Mercury-nominated Lou Rhodes is not only a fantastic singer but a young mother and so perfect for the "mid-life" singer. The as-yet unheralded Patrick Watson, a remarkable vocalist from Montreal, became the youngest of the trio.
Swinscoe, now based in New York, then filled out the arrangments with the band and assistance from his old collaborator, bassist Phil France. As a final part of the process, renowned New York photographer Maya Hayuk was commissioned to take 11 pictures to represent each of the scenes/tracks. These pictures, scenes where the characters are missing or abstracted or metaphoric, would once again feed back into world of the soundtrack for a missing film. These images relate to individual moments and the overall at the same time, "leaving the spaces as empty as possible was paramount" so the viewer/listener can fill them, finish them or re interpret them as they see fit.
Dealing with themes of loss and love - and in itself representing a kind of absence - "Ma Fleur" is fertile ground for Swinscoe's brand of music-making, for while people have talked about what he does in terms of jazz, the truth is that the basis of his music has always been in raw emotion. From the achingly beautiful opener "To Build A Home" to the finale, "Time And Space," this is an album which reaches for and finds a truth and honesty far beyond what we would normally expect from such a record, but without losing any of the accessibility which made TCO popular in the first place. If the mood is melancholy, Swinscoe and the musicians he works with manage to make it an ultimately uplifting experience, perhaps in the end more about the love you find than the love you lose…
The Cinematic Orchestra will be bringing their acclaimed liveshow to international venues from April.
The Cinematic Orchestra were formed by Jason Swinscoe in 1999 and have become one of the most respected British acts of the
last 17 years. Possessed of an emotional gravitas that transcends genre, they have sold out the Royal Albert Hall (twice) as well as the Sydney Opera House, and played countless international festivals the world over....more