Take It Back Tuesdays: Every Day by The Cinematic Orchestra

For the third installment of the new and dare-I-say-excellent Take it Back Tuesdays, I chose to do Every Day from the Cinematic Orchestra.

The Cinematic Orchestra – Every Day

{Buy it}

I talk a lot about the ‘late-night’ feeling of albums, usually in reference to cool, downtempo music, because of the amount of time I’ve spent up to the wee hours of the morning and the kind of music I’m drawn to during those hours. It’s fitting then to talk about my absolute favorite late-night album, Every Day.

I’m not sure how or when it is that I originally came across The Cinematic Orchestra or this album. It must have been a few years back when I started to check out Ninja Tune, though I’m honestly not sure. It was a very lucky find, as the album has been my friend ever since. I’ve stayed up late to this album, widdling away on ideas and projects that never, fittingly, saw the light of day. I’d estimate that I’ve listened to the album at least a hundred times over, though given that I don’t even remember when it is that I came across it, it’s a fairly rough estimate. It serves perfectly as an augmentation to the kind of calm, laid-back atmosphere that fits so perfectly with dark nights where your mind and the music are your only friends. Oh, but what good friends they are.

I should start by mentioning that Cinematic Orchestra is a British outfit headed up by Jason Swinscoe. They’ve been active since the late ’90’s and have released 5 full-length albums. They’ve had a rotating cast of musicians so it’s hard to pin down any single member, though their sound has been consistently an interesting blend of live jazz improv and electronic sample-use. I’ve loved every one their five albums for different reasons, but their second, 2002’s  Every Day easily comes away with the blue ribbon.

1. All That You Give. This one opens the album with harp string swells and chimes. It’s inviting and almost heavenly, but after a minute or so, it’s brought down by an orchestra’s chords and a chilled drum beat. This was my introduction to The Cinematic Orchestra. Cool, slow-burning and laid-back. Fontella Bass breaks in with the vocals, showing off an incredible voice. Her smooth delivery fits with the instrumentals, bringing in a bit of soul to the jazz of the track. Part of the appeal of the group is the way they allow improvisation, though it’s rarely easy to determine what’s fresh-on-the-spot and what’s planned studio work. Bass’ vocals fit snugly in the gray area, with just enough riffing to give one the impression that it’s not all so set in place. In all, it serves as a great song and a perfect introduction.

2. Burn Out. This one kicks off with what sounds like a modified water drop. Even after so many years, I’m still not entirely sure what that sound is. A bass solo gives the sound a groove that’s carried throughout the rest of the song. And then the horns. Oh, man those horns. This is one of my absolute favorites from the group. Fontella Bass shows up again, though in a sampled form. “But when the money’s gone, ain’t no comin’ round…”

“Burn Out” is one of the album’s longer tracks, at 10 minutes 14 seconds, but damn if I don’t wish it were longer. The entire song reeks of cool. From the horns to the keyboard solo to the ever-present bass, it’s all there.  It doesn’t even need to go anywhere, it just lets itself burn until there’s nothing left. Truly, this is what I wish modern jazz sounded like.

3. Flite. A great followup to “Burn Out,” “Flite” is much more straightforward in its approach. It does burn, but instead drives itself forward in a great example of accurate titling. The drums get all the attention on this track. With a great sound and beat, they’re just off-kilter enough to be interesting. The electric bass too drives an moving groove. Electronic textures abound throughout as well, keeping things interesting even as they repeat over themselves. This one’s got as many listens in my library as “Burn Out” because the second it kicks off, I have to listen through the whole thing. Indeed, it’s usually done before I even know it.

4.  Evolution. This is, unfortunately, the album’s weakpoint for me. It’s not really a bad track and it starts strong, but it grows repetitive and grating. Fontella Bass starts off the song with great delivery, “the stars light up my life” over a sampled bit of guitar–I’m not sure what that sound is, like so many bits of this album. About a minute and a half in, the song hits its groove, with a great bassline that drives the song down. It returns to the guitar(?) line and Bass’ calmer delivery. Once she hits the “Evolution!” section, though, it all falls down for me. I’m not sure why I find this grating, but it quickly starts to feel like it’s gone on too long.

5. Man with the Movie Camera. Oh boy. This song’s just incredible. Written for a re-screening of a very-early Russian motion picture (read:1910s), “Man with the Movie Camera” is just an excellent track all around. Kicking off with a repeating riff that sounds like it’d be perfect in a dark Christmas movie, it quickly grows into something much bigger. A clarinet solo ices over the riff and drums come in to give the song a beat. After a minute of this, the beat quickens and the riff is dropped and in a few short seconds, the song changes entirely.

The riff’s dropped for smoother, dronier horns and the bass groove takes on a life of its own. A keyboard layers over the drones, giving them a texture and flipping from side to side. If you can’t listen to this album on a nice sound system, at least give it a listen in some headphones. The dynamics on this track are all over. After a couple minutes of this, the song again drops out every but the drums and changes itself up entirely. The drums get a lot of attention in this section and they deserve it. A piano eventually comes in, layering chords over the beat while the keyboard arpeggios come back into the mix. For the final section, the drones come back with the clarinet solo.

This one’s an epic, even though it’s only the fourth longest track on the album. It switches itself up so many times, it feels like a symphony with themes, motifs and movements all its own. Truly, this is something to behold in its own right.

6. All Things to All Men. The drones that start this track lend themselves toward a dark tone. Then the arpeggios from various instruments fade-in, building tension. Eventually the song slips into a groove, though the dark tone remains. Labelmate Roots Manuva lends his vocal talents to this track, in a rap about apathy and hypocrisy that’s none too kind,

We made our beds and now we hate where these beds be.”

This track is the one on the album that I most identify with the ‘late-night feel’ that I so often refer to. Maybe it’s the dark tones, maybe it’s the languid quality to the beat, or maybe it’s the slow rap itself. It could be the way it burns out, never quite changing up its game and never asserting itself. I can never quite say, but there’s nothing quite like the sampled arpeggios that appear throughout the song. They always give me the image of an empty street, covered in snow and lit by a single orange streetlight.

7. Everyday. The album’s closer is actually one of my least listened to tracks on the album. I’m not sure why that is, considering it’s a great track that perfectly seals off everything that came before it and that I absolutely adore it. It starts with a bass solo that will really test your subs. The basswork throughout the album is excellent, so it’s nice to see it get some love by itself. After looking it up, Phil France is the bassist so he gets a mention all his own. In fact, I wish I could properly cite all the samples, instrumentalists and references in this album, but I’m simply not enough of a Nu-Jazz-head to know. I guess that’s one of the things that comes with a digital copy and no sleevenotes though.

Once the bass solo’s over, the dropping-water sound returns (I think it’s a keyboard at this point) and an oriental-sounding instrument plucks its way in. Piano arpeggios come over that and the whole thing is abound with texture. This is late-night music at its finest. Just wordly-sounding enough to be exotic, but not overbearing about it. The vocal samples of African chants that show up after about 6 minutes are my favorite section of the song and its this part that I wish lasted longer than it does. It’s telling when a song that’s over ten minutes long feels too short.

I’ve offered every track from the album up here streaming and I hope I don’t get in trouble for that. I’ll give you “Burn Out” because it’s my favorite, but please  please please make sure to give it a purchase if you like anything you’ve heard here. And be sure to check out some other of The Cinematic Orchestra’s work; they’re a personal favorite for a reason.

mp3: {Burn Out} (rightclick>saveas…)

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One Response to Take It Back Tuesdays: Every Day by The Cinematic Orchestra

  1. Heya Middle Class White Noise. Nice to meetcha. Cinematic Orchestra FTW!

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