...Not unlike waiting for a train which never turns up.
Robert Jackman 2007
Ma Fleur, long-awaited fifth composition from suave electro-jazz pioneers, The Cinematic Orchestra, is a reeking letdown – and in a way which only a British album could be. Listening to it is not unlike waiting for a train which never turns up.
You’re longing to be transported somewhere – preferably to that realm of euphoria to which critics testified in their ardent praise of previous Orchestra efforts. And, quite typically, nothing comes. When the album finishes you’re still slumped in the same spot – fifty-four minutes older and a good deal more jaded.
Opening track ‘'To Build A Home'’ is a dismal forecast of things to come. It’s cheerless and aloof, and its wandering vocals and plodding piano will leave Orchestra fans heartily holding back Coldplay comparisons.
Follow-up, ‘'Familiar Ground'’, is a rare highlight, thanks to the sturdy vocals of accomplished soul singer Fontella Bass.
But it isn’t long before normal service is resumed, and we’re soon left tutting and sighing once more. The clutter of instrumental tracks in the middle of the album is painfully barren. The Orchestra seem far too eager to make an emotional impact. The result is clumsy and uncomfortable, with their sweaty-palms failing to get the slightest grip on our heartstrings.
In interviews, Orchestra main-man Jason Swinscoe has described Ma Fleur as the soundtrack for an ‘imagined film’. And we should be grateful for that – without the make-believe storyboard, it’s not hard to imagine this record lapping over into structureless self-indulgence.
On an emotional level Ma Fleur is far too acute and dreadfully artificial. Soundwise it’s dreary and directionless – most unlikely to secure your affection. Far more interesting will be the sound of multitudes of music critics, as they rush to retract their premature hailing of Swinscoe as a nu-jazz genius.