Submotion Orchestra – Kites

Kites marks a fine return to Submotion Orchestra's cinematic jazz roots

Album Review by Paul Neeson | 07 Mar 2018
  • Submotion Orchestra – Kites
Album title: Kites
Artist: Submotion Orchestra
Label: SMO Recordings
Release date: 9 Mar

Leeds-based collective Submotion Orchestra may be known for their musical diversity, however fifth studio offering Kites is firmly framed by the rich, cinematic jazz which defined their aptly titled 2011 debut Finest Hour, and which here provides their most focused piece since.

Whilst Kites doesn’t quite soar to that album’s heights, opener and latest single Prism provides a smouldering start: Ruby Wood’s sultry vocals drift over heart-swelling strings, building to a dizzying climax with shuddering drums underpinning a chorus of piano and horn. It sits among their finest offerings to date. Variations follows, with minimalist piano and glancing electro-inflections tempering things, before Submotion Orchestra’s emotive blend leads Kites into the realm of musical melodrama as vividly evidenced on Night and Branches. It’s a sound which at times threatens to debase their jazz credentials; however, their indulgence proves hard to resist amid Branches' impossibly seductive waltz.        

In fact the single point of mediocrity – by no coincidence when Ruby Wood’s vocals are dropped from the mix – can be found on Tunnel; its car-chase cinematics simply lacking the emotional expression found elsewhere, though this slight misstep does little to lessen Kites’ overall impact.

To label it a return to form would be misleading, as Submotion Orchestra have maintained throughout their career. Rather it’s testament to their choice to revisit their instrumental roots, allowing Kites to develop organically in the studio, and more significantly, to produce an emotionally exposed album, the honesty of which has paid great dividends.

Listen to: Prism, Branches