CINEMATIC ORCHESTRA / “Man With The Movie Camera” (Live At Cargo)
Whether you are or aren’t a fan of turntables as instruments, listening for the first time to Cinematic Orchestra’s “Man With The Movie Camera” can be a stunning experience. Personally, I dig turntablism more as a theory, concept or craft than as actual music. The best turntablists are wizards of their art: fleet-fingered as magicians, precise as surgeons and creative to boot. The problem is, they’re usually boring on record. The same techniques that are so fascinating to the eye are often uninteresting or even undetectable to the ear. What makes “Man With A Movie Camera” unique is although it’s obviously intended to be a feature piece for the man behind the turntables, Patrick ‘PC’ Carpenter, Patrick’s work is just one part of a multi-faceted composition. (As opposed to a loosely related series of bio-mechanical complexities, which, unfortunately, is what a lot of recorded turntablism ends up sounding like.)
The original version of the tune is from Cinematic Orchestra’s second album, 2002’s Every Day. A year later, Cinematic revived the song, making it the thematic centerpiece of a film score also called Man With A Movie Camera. In addition to all of that, I’ve heard at least five or six live versions of the tune. (Obviously, Jason Swinscoe, Cinematic Orchestra’s leader, is enamored with it.) All the live versions are different and all are at least interesting. The studio version of “Man With A Movie Camera” has something of a deliberate, ‘composed’ feel. But when the band really cuts loose live—as they do on this week’s feature selection—the improvised aspects of the tune come to the fore and the results are amazing. There are soaring horn solos, powerful drum work, pounding percussion, surprising electronic effects and of course, PC’s swirling, almost hypnotic turntable manipulations. Live, Cinematic Orchestra approaches the tune the way an actual jazz band does: the composition is there in their collective musical consciousness, but it’s just a framework, a series of road marks – it isn’t the path itself. As if they’re cutting their way through a jungle so lush that their previous explorations of the same ground disappear almost immediately, the musicians of Cinematic Orchestra have to create a new path for themselves every time they perform the song.
By the time I heard their live version of “Man With A Movie Camera,” I was already a Cinematic Orchestra fan. Still, I was surprised by the band’s ability to sustain the intensity of this long track through the entire running time. It helps that they don’t take themselves completely seriously: around the eleven-minute mark you’ll hear them break into an impromptu tribute to Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern” by way of The Furious Five’s ”White Lines.”
Last week, Kalamu showcased Mark de Clive Lowe, an electronic-oriented musician who performs as well (if not better) live on stage as he does in the studio. This week, I hope the Live At Cargo version of “Man With A Movie Camera” shows Lowe isn’t alone in that respect. Whether it’s in the recording studio or on stage, Cinematic Orchestra is one of the best bands in modern music. At the very end of their sixteen-minute performance, someone (probably Swinscoe) comments, “Nice one.” Yeah, no shit.
— Cinematic Orchestra’s meditative remix of 1 Giant Step’s “The Way You Dream” featuring Michael Stipe and Asha Bhosle on vocals, available on Palm Beats Volume One.
— “Durian,” Cinematic’s interpretative cover of Nina Simone’s version of “Strange Fruit.” See my comments from last summer for an explanation of this one. Available on Cinematic’s debut album, Motion.
— Detailed information about the 1929 Russian silent film that inspired the song and the album Man With A Movie Camera.
— Page from the Ninja Tune website where you can supposedly still get the DVD which includes the original 1929 film as well as the complete Cinematic Orchestra score and three live tracks including the one I talk about in this write-up.
—Mtume ya Salaam
“Theme De Yo-Yo” is from the Art Ensemble of Chicago's classic album Les Stances A Sophie. It features vocals by (who was married to AEC founding member Lester Bowie). AEC is a direct inspiration for TCO.
Check out the AEC original and then a Live at Cargo TCO cover taken from the deluxe DVD version of Man With A Movie Camera.
Also included as a bonus cut is a Patrick Carpenter remix of “Evolution.” That’s Fontella on vocals.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
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