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REVIEW: The Cinematic Orchestra leaves SF lounge lizards basking in bass
Review by BPM Smith

The Cinematic Orchestra played Saturday night at Bimbo’s 365 Club here in San Francisco, and the UK-based troupe sure put on a euphoric show. After a rough patch in their very first song -- the highs on Jason Swinscoe’s electronic effects were too high for a second which totally burst my bubble -- they recovered to do a fantastic set that combined tracks from their new album "Ma Fleur" with some old time favorites from "Man With a Movie Camera" that had catapulted them to cult status among American Downtempo fans and stoners worldwide.

Highs: The Cinematic Orchestra stretched out their old five and six minute tracks into seamless, 20-minute jam sessions. At one point I had to leave my martini and beer-filled table to dive into the large crowd in front of Bimbo’s stage to feel, not just hear, the heavy bass. Cinematic often churned out double bass lines, combining the Electronic-generated Hip Hop beats of Swinscoe with the adroit rhythms of bass player Phil France. Providing soaring meldies for the set was Tom Chant, who played both the alto and soprano saxophones.

Fontella BassNew vocalist Fontella Bass (pictured left), of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, added a bluesy feel to Cinematic’s layered tones of jazz instrumentation, Electronic effects and thumping bass. Her gorgeous rendition of their new track "As The Stars Fall" was simply ethereal and lifted the audience into a dreamlike state.

Lows: The table full of bird brained bitches who wouldn’t stop cackling at the top of their voices even while The Cinematic Orchestra played. Why would you want to hear yourself talk about nothing when one of the world’s best Downtempo bands is playing in San Francisco for the first time in four years?… Parking in North Beach on a Saturday night, of course.

The Club: Bimbo’s, with two elegant table and chair filled rooms that could’ve shot straight from the 1950s, has a long-standing tradition of scheduling top Downtempo Electronica bands from around the world. Past performers include the legendary Kruder & Dorfmeister, and later this week French band Air will play during two consecutive nights. Bimbo’s draws a chilled out crowd of twenty and thirtysomethings ranging from urban hipsters to stoned granolas. As a result, security is much more pleasant than most San Francisco clubs, where burly bouncers often have a chip on their shoulders. They handled guest listers and will callers in a prompt, friendly manner.

Endnote: In a meet-and-greet after the show, one would-be groupy cooed, "You guys played a rough and juicy show" with obviously sexual connotations. Earlier I spotted Chant smoking a rolled "cigarette" before the show. Guitarist Stuart McCallum meanwhile told WORD’N’BASS that The Cinematic Orchestra’s next project will be a long-rumored live performance, saying American fans should "watch for a live album soon." Also, I was able to score both vinyl and CD copies of "Ma Fleur," so watch for some phat remixes in my upcoming Downtempo sets during the WORD’N’BASS Show.

WORD’N’BASS.com Editor BPM Smith is a financial journalist, Drum & Bass DJ and author. After finishing his new novel "Bistro de Mars," he will spend his time searching for actress Vanessa Hudgens to give her the spanking she deserves. He enjoys heavy bass, literature and martinis consisting of a 50-50 split between quality dry gin and vermouth -- shaken, ice cold and never dirty. E-mail him your comments, gossip or shout-outs at editor (at) wordnbass (dot) com

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