ALBUM REVIEW: Submotion Orchestra – Kites
Almost ten years ago in the musical melting pot of Leeds, seven artists fused forces to create something completely incomparable to anything that preceded it – to the present day it stands alone in its design. Submotion Orchestra‘s inimitable sound audaciously combines the contrasting worlds of music, drawing influences from jazz, ambient electronica and soul with a deep underbelly of sub-low frequencies inspired from the early dubstep scene. An experimental dubstep producer in his own right, Ruckspin (aka Dom Howard) replicates the trademark dub ‘wobbles’ through a synthesiser leaving the bass, drums, percussion, keyboard & trumpet players to compose an orchestral body of music. Vocals are provided by Ruby Wood whose angelic tones sound like they were destined for the band. Their avant-garde approach to production is responsible for the cult following that the band captivated, evolving into a global audience following their debut album ‘Finest Hour’ in 2011. From this, a phenomenal work ethic ensued and – amongst numerous tours, festival appearances and the odd EP – Submotion Orchestra’s latest release ‘ Kites ’ marks their fifth studio album.
Although a running theme within their albums follows a blissful journey of sound with epic crescendos and hypnotising ambience, each album has experimented with slightly different styles. New album ‘ Kites ’ travels back to Submotion Orchestra’s earlier roots of jazz infused electronica, accompanied by their unmistakable deep bass-lines, flowing synths and charming vocal harmonies stamping their identity.
As technically sound as a piece of music can be, when an album can make the listener feel something more without being able to put a finger on the cause it usually means that there’s an underlying inspiration for its production – often from a raw and emotional place. In a short album bio on Bandcamp, drummer and musical director Tommy Evans explains:
“In the two years since ‘Colour Theory’ there have been a number of significant events for us all including new life and family death. We wanted to use these events as creative inspiration so we bought a disposable camera each and took photos based around these events, or the themes that they represented. Once developed, we selected 10 photos to be used as the inspiration for the 10 tracks on the album. Each track explores a different emotion, theme or event. All are honest, relevant and often hugely personal.”
Each track is an experience, for the band and the audience alike. I’m confident that I speak on behalf of the vast majority of Submotion Orchestra fans in saying that I’ve always considered their music to be medicine for the mind, facilitating introspection and reflection. This album undoubtedly follows suit with that idea, and I expect that never to falter in future releases by the band. Here’s a breakdown of my three favourite tracks from ‘ Kites ‘:
Less is more with the opening track of the album. Soft vocals float through the intro leading up to an endearing crescendo before climaxing with a deep layer of bass as the vocals echo off into the distance, all while staying ambient with its delivery. The subtlest of additions in ‘Prism’ (a bird tweet for example) are crafted to seem so prominent within the track due to its intelligent simplicity. This leaves you engrossed in every detail as the sub guides you along. It’s an atmospheric and purposeful start to a great album.
‘Branches’ hosts a strong vocal presence throughout the track, as a punchier beat provides the cement compared to more tranquil approaches on other pieces within the album. Ruby has reflection and promise in her tone as her harmonies effortlessly match the rise and fall of the key tones in the build up to the breakdown, leaving you utterly transfixed. It’s an honest and uplifting track, epitomising what the album is all about.
The penultimate track ‘Tunnel’ is a moodier instrumental showcase of the boundaries that full-band electronic music can push. The synthesiser, bass and percussion get to work as the tempo raises midway through with a powerful medley of bass and electronica; while an ethereal trumpet rains over the top. The band really pushed their tools to the limit on this.
As of 9th March, ‘Kites’ became available on all major platforms so go and cop it and lose yourself in its beauty. To really get the Submotion Orchestra experience, trust me when I say, you need to see them live. Luckily for you they are in the midst of their official ‘Kites’ tour, gracing Manchester on Thursday 15th March at Gorilla. See you there!