The Cinematic Orchestra // Live Review & Photoset

30th June | Harbourside

Photos: Jessica Bartolini

On a cool Summer’s evening, there’s not much that beats time spent relaxing, listening to the jazzy electronics of The Cinematic Orchestra. Better still is one spent doing just that on Bristol’s harbourside, to finish off the sensational Bristol Sounds.

First of all, we’re treated to Ghostpoet (aka Obaro Ejimiwe), a man whose unique music evades categorisation. Coming on to a smattering of cheers, he jumps (literally) straight into ‘Many Moods At Midnight’, already dancing like nobody’s watching—which does, in fact, get the crowd to pay attention. His act is understated for now. “It’s good to be back,” he calls out, with a real humility: one of Ghostpoet’s enduring qualities.

He’s channelling a gentlemanly vibe: dressed in all black, from shirt to shades, but his sung-spoken vocals stir up an ominous energy. On ‘Better Not Butter’, distorted guitar blares out from the back of the stage, while Ejimiwe keeps it classy and collected up front. Big track, ‘X Marks The Spot’ is gloomy, but—most importantly—very danceable; a refreshing synth line bubbles up in the latter half, revitalising the sonic darkness. He shifts up his delivery, too, from a bassy sung style in ‘Yes, I Helped You Pack’ to bullet-like rap in ‘The Pleasure In Pleather’. A killer opening.

The Cinematic Orchestra show their artistry from the get-go. Their opening instrumental track has it all: a backbone of drummed polyrhythm, that soon segues into an expansive soundscape. It feels bright, new, explorational. Improvisation is firmly in charge—no studio version could provide the same experience as this. The band truly lives up to their orchestral moniker.

They swap between solos. Tom Chant on soprano saxophone conjures a witch-like feel, his sax laughing along, followed by Luke Flowers on kit. It’s very free-form, and definitely jazz, but there’s an indisputably electronic element to it. The synthesised parts sound remarkably authentic, albeit with a plethora of effects transforming them.

The smooth and honeyed voice of Tawiah comes on for a stellar ‘Wait For Now / Leave The World’. It’s from the band’s comeback record To Believe, the first after a seven-year studio hiatus. Tawiah takes front and centre on the track, the orchestra forming a more solid structure than before, perfectly accentuating her melody. Heidi Vogel, likewise, provides ample passion – and astonishing vocal depth – on her standouts ‘Familiar Ground’ and ‘A Promise’. The latter strongly evokes an alien abduction, a jazzy feel ceding to digital bleeps and heady effects.

The standout segment of the gig is far and away an inimitable version of their famous ‘To Build A Home’. Beginning so intimate and acoustic, the crowd is enveloped by a hush – even the gulls quiet for the beauty of the piece. Evolving, Heidi joins in for a duet, the piece building up to a lush combination of keys, kit and chorus, before again deconstructing for the denouement. The Cinematic Orchestra are a band that sparkle on record, but it’s live that they shine – a truly magical gig.

See The Cinematic Orchestra play ‘Lessons’ live here: