SUBMOTION ORCHESTRA – Kites
aaamusic | On 27, Mar 2018
Submotion Orchestra have spent four albums becoming a force to be reckoned with. Having long realised their sound, the seven musicians tastefully apply themselves into gorgeous arrangements and lovingly balanced, organic sounding and lively mixes. I personally commented on this growth in my past reviews for Alium and Colour Theory. With this fifth release, Kites, they continue crossing old boundaries by deconstructing their approach to then rebuild what is an incredibly honed result.
Given the thematic inspiration behind the ten songs here (including “new life and family death”, as described by musical director Tommy Evans), they come across with a weight not felt before from the group. This is especially true when listened through in one sitting. Kites is an album rife with heavy emotions. Even though its true to say this work takes Submotion in something of a new direction, the themes across the work feel part and parcel with what they’ve already spent so long doing.
Title track “Kites” opens with an arrangement of horns reminiscent of Björk’s “The Anchor Song” which seeps into an atmospheric scape fused with piano and Ruby Wood’s forlorn crooning. The world building is serene. It manages to capture the lost dream state that having your world profoundly change so fast can induce, with Ruby as an inhabitant, both subject and guide, surrounded with aura and energy. “Bridges” feels like it adds an emotional extension to “Kites” (the gap between songs can slip by easily unnoticed) and a strong sense of overture preceding “Own”, a bittersweet song that progresses into sweeping beauty with soaring horns eventually taking place of Ruby’s voice.
Submotion Orchestra find a home in their vulnerability, but they steer themselves into valiant and powerful places, nourishing the soul with a broad and powerful force. The cohesion of the sounds in “Youth” and “Alone” embraces the listeners ears; the former includes watery keys and some exquisite string arrangements that completely elevate the listening experience, and the latter slowly thickens and navigates and wondrously sombre harmonic progression.
These respective devices can also be found elsewhere along the album and embolden the songs wherever they arise. While these pull one’s attention in, it’s the fleeting moments and details that really gratify, like the wandering linear patterns in the percussion and how the second verse builds so organically upon the first in “Variations”. “Night” is like a monody, absolutely heart wrenching. It moves into a slow groove, dub-like delays spring off the percussion and the bass dots along in a simple syncopation that brings depth to the groove. The closing section delves into a dark and somewhat dystopian place, adding to the dub inspiration that oddly finds itself worked into the sound so becomingly.
Just like the pictures that fill the cover of the LP, all taken by members of the band, the songs capture moments full of meaning given by the beholder. The adage that a picture says a thousand words is true in that we invent the words out of our own interpretation, and each of the ten songs on display here both capture a moment of their own and inspire a multitude of emotions and ideas worth navigating. Such is a core characteristic of going through grief and acceptance of life’s pivotal moments.