A story lies somewhere in the 10 tracks on the Cinematic Orchestra’s Ma Fleur, the group’s first album in five years. Jason Swinscoe, TCO’s founder and leader, wrote the songs and gave them to a screenwriter, who then wrote tales about the songs that influenced their direction, eventually generating both a screenplay and the album.
With the film as yet unmade, the music, suffused with longing and ardor and the tenuous hope common to sweeping celluloid romances, carefully omits any specific plot points. Instead, three excellent vocalists—Fontella Bass, Lou Rhodes and Patrick Watson—impart soul to enigmatic, evocative phrases like “how near/how far” and “I’m sinking into you.” Beneath them, chords bloom from silences and repeated figures create magical backdrops, with those from the guitar of Stuart McCallum particularly haunting.
Sonically, Swinscoe pushes the mostly quiet music to the front of the soundscape, so that a single-string chord seems as big and vivid as a heroine’s trembling lip on a 70-foot screen. When a beat does drop and the music surges, your emotions surge along with it. Ma Fleur immerses you in its sheer sound and invites you to imagine a narrative, and few will be able to resist.