THE CINEMATIC ORCHESTRA
It’s a rainy day in New York City, Jason Swinscoe’s recently adopted home. Cooped up inside his apartment, the recent East London transplant and mastermind behind The Cinematic Orchestra is more than willing to discuss his group’s evolution, and how he came to score the soundtrack to an imagined film.
After years of deejaying, Swinscoe found himself becoming more interested in thinking outside the electronic music box. “I [wanted] the arrangements to become dynamic and convey ideas of other worlds and intimate spaces, things that can be quite visual – I wanted to move musically away from the beat and more towards the harmony.” Changing up his song-writing approach for the group’s debut, Motion, the young Swinscoe employed a DJ’s customary toolshed of vinyl, but also augmented the songs with live performances. A jazz lover, he enlisted extraordinary musos like Tom Chant (sax), Phil France (bass), and drumming phenom Luke Flowers. “I invited them to help let the music move a little bit more – they sort of played over top of and with existing tracks to give the songs a bit more movement,” says Swinscoe, who employed the technique again on 2002’s Everyday, a vital, outstanding document of the euphoric rush of creativity.
With the commissioned soundtrack to the visionary 1929 Russian film “Man with A Movie Camera” and another film project under his belt, Swinscoe found himself disenchanted with film work, but not for long. The down-tempo, introspective tracks that would become Ma Fleur were sketched out during his days in Paris. During the same period, a bout of writer’s block led the DJ to send the skeletal tracks to a writer friend, who turned around three weeks later with a rough film script. Together, the pair fleshed out the script, and the song fragments took on a new emotional core. “Holistically, [the script] made a huge creative leap to finish the record,” explains Swinscoe. “For me, [the experience] was a reaction against working with existing artifacts – it [was] about wanting to manipulate and freely move between ideas that came from the visual or musical side of things, and have them interact.”
While he is searching for a production company willing to help bring the script to life, Swinscoe believes his soundtrack to an envisioned film is engaging enough to stand on its own. Just as the soundtrack and script informed each other, so he hopes the listener will fill the record with an interpreted life of their choosing. “I think this one is a little more open and organic in that way.”
by Kevin Nelson
Originally published in Chord Magazine, June 2006