The Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe (4 stars)

The Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe

Groups first full-length since 2007 is lush, expansive and full of emotional dynamism

It's been 12 years since The Cinematic Orchestra released their last studio album, Ma Fleur. 12 years of seismic shifts in the band and beyond, shifts both personal and political. Building from 2016's single release 'To Believe', featuring Moses Sumney, To Believe marks a return as well as a gesture outwards: if Jason Swinscoe and Dominic Smith's legacy thus far has cemented the mainstream popularity of downtempo jazz, then this record makes artful futures of those smooth foundations. In a world of supposed 'post-truth', fragmented identity and information overload, To Believe engages with the powerful drives of desire and narrative, faith and dream, beauty and loss.

Moving between strangeness and sweetness, warmth and loneliness, To Believe captures its thematic contradictions in a language of elegant orchestration: lush jazz atmospheres provide the underscore for quietly devastating melodies and moments of instrumental climax that feel like horizons opening. This signature spaciousness evokes individual grief as much as a wider sense of planetary ache and sigh: songs like 'Wait for Now/Leave the World' and 'Zero One/This Fantasy' stage the need for human intimacy against the backdrop of a drama whose scale eludes. Assembled from sessions recorded between New York, London and LA, To Believe feels transatlantic, expansive; the appearance of collaborators old and new (Moses Sumney, Roots Manuva, Tawiah, Grey Reverend and Heidi Vogel) lends emotional dynamism and energy to the record's meditative arc.

And yet in all its assurance, To Believe maintains restraint in its sweep. If the overall question is, as Smith puts it, 'why do we believe in something', this album is about that simultaneous act of commitment and reflection. We might veer into fantasy, we move orbital between tempos and layers of anxious arpeggio, stirring strings and lyrics; always we circle this work of belief.

Out Fri 15 Mar on Ninja Tune.

The Cinematic Orchestra

British nu-jazz and electronic group.

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