Music for music's sake
The Cinematic Orchestra - Live At Barbican, London

Traditionally The Cinematic Orchestra’s performance marries live band improvisation with turntables and samples. Jason Swinscoe's latest project is much more rehearsed. For 'In Motion #1' he has invited some of his favourite musicians and producers to compose soundtracks to influential works by great avant-garde film makers. Tonight’s one-off UK show will see these scores played to picture.

So with the formal air of a classical concert, the audience are seated as the show opens with ‘Dream Work’- Dorian Concept and Tom Chant’s soundtrack to Peter Tscherkassky’s 2001 short. With Concept’s eerie keyboard and Chant’s fluttery soprano saxophone like a swarm of insects, the track reflects the film’s delirious dreamlike quality.

Next ‘Outer Space’ (also by Concept and Chant) pulls its audience further into the realms of the avant-garde as flickering black and white images mesh together chaotically. Concept’s repetitive chords are delicate and exploratory in contrast to Chant’s scatty sax, which takes its basis from freeform jazz and orchestrates the chaotic imagery to disturbing affect.

‘Lapis’ is much more soothing in contrast. This time on grand piano, Concept measures major chords with lengthy gaps, filled and punctuated by the soothing harmonies of a string quartet. James Whitney’s 1966 film depicts swirling patterns and psychedelic shapes that divide and spill together in a kaleidoscope of colour as the piano quickens. Many tiny dots pour on top of one another to create a beautiful picture and similarly the conductor weaves together a patchwork of textures and sounds to create a song so powerful and true.

‘Regen’ meaning ‘Rain’ is Grey Reverend’s response to Joris Iven’s 1929 film, which depicts a city’s transformation by rain. Reverend’s piece centres on his own intricate guitar line, picked in a way that reflects raindrops hitting the pavement. Reverend is joined by double bass and strings; the dulcet cello giving the piece a sense of inevitability – much like the certainty of rainfall.

Rene Clair’s 1924 dada surrealist film ‘Entr’acte’ is soundtracked by The Cinematic Orchestra and is perhaps the fullest song of the evening, with eleven musicians taking part. It combines the classical sound of the strings with the electronic tones of Swinscoe’s synths and sampler. Part of the film depicts the theme of “motion” with a montage of things that move in sequence such as ballet dancers, roller coasters and people running. This momentum is prevalent in TOC’s soundtrack as Luke Flowers’ dexterous drumming builds in pace, rolling and surging forward with military precision.

For the denouement of tonight’s gig, TOC welcome female vocalist Fontella Bass onstage as they play some of their better known songs: ‘Breathe’, ‘To Build A Home’ and finally ‘All That You Give’, which is met with a standing ovation.

Rarely, these days, does one get the chance to witness music for music’s sake. Such is the nature of the industry that all too regularly a tour revolves around filling large venues, cramming a multitude of tour dates into the calendar and selling the most merchandise. Tonight, we are treated to something entirely different - something original and pure in its artistic intention.

Words by Becci Ride

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