Submotion Orchestra have a knack for crafting songs that deliver instant impact. ‘Kites’, the group’s fifth record, delivers sweeping, meandering flourishes that are lovely but tend to fade away like they were never really there in the first place.
It’s a return for the band to the smoky, cinematic jazz of their debut record, ‘Finest Hour’. This is lounge music perfected for new-age trendy hotel lobbies - beautifully arranged, but set against the IDM of 2016’s brilliant ‘Colour Theory’, which also explored post-dubstep and deep house, ‘Kites’ feels safe.
While Ruby Wood’s soothing vocals were absent on many of ‘Colour Theory’s tracks, allowing the group’s other musicians to flex their sonic muscles, she is more prevalent this time round. If anything, Wood is not on hand enough: when her vocals are dropped from the mix, the calming, subdued nature of the music can feel without purpose.
When ‘Kites’ is beautiful though it is really beautiful - the title track is a fragile piano ballad that evolves into a brooding, bass-heavy swell of emotional burden. There are flashes of club-orientated composition in places still - the sub bass on ‘Tunnel’, for example, wobbles as though it was lifted directly from a 2006 Rinse FM set, but it’s something of an anomaly.
For its safeness, ‘Kites’ is an album with an emotional weight to it and its blend of soul, jazz, electronica and bass all land as effortlessly as anything Submotion Orchestra do. As a final product, however, we’re left feeling unfulfilled.
Words: Matthew Cooper
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