Record Review - 1 January 27 2001

The best thing about Jason Swinscoe, the mastermind behind London downtempo troupe the Cinematic Orchestra, is that he sounds like he's listened carefully to Gil Evans' Out of the Cool and Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and not just admired their cover art through a haze of bong smoke. Not that he and his five accompanists necessarily aim to be "real" in any sense. Making rhythm loops for the musicians to improvise to, then sampling the best bits and constructing them into faux-jazz soundscapes, Swinscoe's obvious model is Teo Macero, who produced dozens of classic Davis sides in a similar manner. But where Miles was a lightning rod who extracted inspired, personalized expression from his sidemen, Swinscoe's methods conjure a hushed, generalized atmosphere.
That, however, doesn't mean the Orchestra lack content. Like their 1999 debut, Motion, the new Remixes 98-2000 manages to be soundtrack-jazzy without slipping into schlock. Unlike many of his downtempo beat-besotted cohorts, Swinscoe doesn't succumb to overripe keyboard tinkle and fuzak fluff (take Jazzanova — please). Instead, he keeps his penchant for lush textures in check with an icy feel that melts with repeated listens. The gorgeous baroque house of Faze Action's "Moving Cities" is remolded into a bluesy groove driven by a New Orleans second-line-style sock cymbal; Nils Petter Molvaer's "Vilderness" is given gradual overtonal tension atop a lurching bass line. Tom Tyler's reworking of the group's "Channel One Suite" fits right into the mood — a mood that, at 49 minutes, is not a minute overdone.