The Cinematic Orchestra - Colston Hall, Bristol, October 31, 2007

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It's Halloween, “Ooh! Scary! Wooooh!”, as Jonathan Richman once sang.  But the sound the Cinematic Orchestra are peddling tonight is more elegiac than Eldritch; far more chilled than it is chilling.  Tonight is all about gorgeous, opiated melancholy, fired deep within the furnaces of romantic despair.  Lulling us into submission with a typically slinky overture, the CO assert their enduring power as a live act with a series of taut-yet-languid-numbers; all still clearly locked within what I will describe as the David Axelrod-meets-Pharoah Sanders groove explored throughout their recorded output. The Cinematic Orchestra - Colston Hall, Bristol, October 31, 2007
The sound billowing out from the stage also harks back to the Mahavishnu Orchestras and Art Ensembles of some 30 years ago – and is certainly a unique feature on the live circuit (this being the first of a mere two-date tour of England).  However, the charm of the initial spell begins to wane as each piece melds into the next in terms of arrangement, tempo and emotional tone. Make no mistake - the assorted musicians on stage are undoubtedly masters of erotically charged funk and shoegaze-informed guitar atmospherics, but the experimental sonics are not matched a willingness to explore a more varied emotional palette.  

We of course know they are capable of energising funk – their cover of Theme De Yoyo being the definitive one to date - but for reasons best known to themselves they choose not to play it.  In all fairness, the intermittent appearance of two wonderful singers provides some much needed variety and their achingly soulful, humane and undeniably rich voices complement the exquisite melancholy to perfection.  

Their disappearance however heralds a return to by now over-familiar territory, and while there can be no doubt that the CO are a national treasure able to capture that vibe like very few other acts, it was perhaps telling that their post-coital soundscapes worked their magic a little too well, soothing the friend sat on my right hand side into literal unconsciousness.

Chris Noble