The Cinematic Orchestra: Ma Fleur: Live at the Barbican
Ninja Tune

Admittedly, The Cinematic Orchestra's half-hour Ma Fleur: Live at The Barbican EP (download only) is rendered somewhat unnecessary in light of the group's recent Ma Fleur release and so may appeal primarily to completists. At the same time, it offers a radically different take on the album's magisterial ballad “Breathe” with Eska Mtungwazi's vocal delivery departing significantly from Fontella Bass's majestic but wearily intoned original. Recorded on May 6th, 2007, Mtungwazi's youthful voice is stronger and more vital by comparison and clearer in its enunciation, although it lacks the gravitas that the legendary Bass brings to her poignant performance. On the other Ma Fleur piece, “Familiar Ground,” Mtungwazi's overly emotive approach sounds less effective when compared to Bass's more straightforward reading.

The group itself sounds spectacular in both studio and live contexts, and its dynamic jazz-infused style loses nothing in the transition to the stage. The EP's other key selling point is the inclusion of an almost thirteen-minute treatment of “Man With The Movie Camera” which affords Tom Chant, Stuart Macallum, and Nick Ramm a forum for their considerable sax, guitar, and piano playing talents, and the ensemble as a whole (powered by Luke Flowers' robust drumming) to showcase its tight interplay. Somewhat less satisfying is “Channel 1 Suite” (from 1999's Motion) which features singer Patrick Watson alongside a heavier electronic-oriented backing; for a better account of his formidable vocal gifts, proceed directly to Ma Fleur's “To Build A Home.”

September 2007