Submotion Orchestra – Alium (Counter Records, 2014)
Divine, beautiful and graceful are only some of the words which sprung to mind while listening to Submotion Orchestra‘s third album ‘Alium‘ which came out on Monday via Counter Records, whose parent label is British electronic giant Ninja Tune.
‘The Ninjas‘, as we affectionately like to call them, seem to possess an unmistakable flair for pure talent and somehow always manage to ‘snatch’ all the cool kids on the block. And Submotion
Orchestra are no exception.
Let me quickly present this 7-piece band of magicians: the lovely vocals belong to Ruby, Bobby plays the trumpet, Taz is on keys, Chris is on bass, we got Tommy on drums, Danny – on percussion and Dom aka Ruckspin is the engineer/FX guy. They formed in 2009 and in 2011 released their debut album ‘Finest Hour‘ which includes the sensual and catchy vibes of ‘All Yours‘ that have been stuck in everybody’s head ever since.
While throughout the years Submotion Orchestra‘s deep sonic structures have often earned them the title of a live dubstep act with a tinge of jazz, they are far more than that. Yes, deep basslines and halfstep tempos are clearly noticeable but these are skillfully twisted through the group members’ own vision of what British (electronic) music needs. And apparently it’s a lot of soul and warmth.
‘Awakening‘ invites us inside the universe of ‘Alium‘ which is made up of jazzy and ambient sounds complemented by heavy basslines, buzzing synths and diverse rhythmic sections. Ruby appears in the second track ‘Time Will Wait‘ and that’s when you fully realise that this is a Submotion Orchestra album, when the refreshingly pop flavour of her vocals mingles with vast electronic landscapes.
I keep using the word ‘electronic‘ but don’t get me wrong, Submotion Orchestra‘s charm lies in the liveliness of their sound, in the way they manage to make their different instruments, trumpet, percussion, live drums, etc., dwell together with digitally synthesized melodies.
A definite highlight is third track ‘City Lights‘, a dynamic piece with a slightly cheesy chorus and rattling percussion among soothing jazz harmonies. Another really enjoyable piece is the entirely instrumental ‘Chrome Units‘ where Ruckspin‘s synth job shines among aggressive beats and mysterious trumpet sounds.
Submotion Orchestra‘s songs feel like creatures who are alive and busy guiding the listener through their universe. A good example is our third highlight from ‘Alium‘, ‘Swan Song‘, with its dramatic and grim melody, amazingly dominated by Ruby‘s velvet voice addressing unmet desires and newly made decisions about what seems like a sad end of a doomed relationship.
After an interlude in the middle of the song leaves us with the impression that this is the end indeed, she appears again with a newly found determination and a new statement, ‘So gather all your things and go, now you know‘. This is one of those musically satisfying moments that make you go ‘Oh!’ and immediately stop doing what you’re doing and focus your attention. Because the music says so, and it’s so so good.
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