The Cinematic Orchestra
March 26
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

“I can be something you believe in,” sings Moses Sumney on the haunted, beautiful title track of I Believe, the mammoth new record by The Cinematic Orchestra - their first full-length album in 12 years.

As ambitious and wide-screened as a classic western, this ambitious slow-burner soon reveals itself as a record of smoldering power.

Sumney’s track was key in shaping the album, says band leader Jason Swinscoe, who founded the outfit in 1999. In 2011, the Londoner moved from his adopted New York home to LA, where long-standing musical partner Dominic Smith was also based.

Like Shoreditch before it, says Swinscoe, at the time New York’s creative community had lost its edge to commerce and complacency.

In LA, he and Smith found artists more excited by their work than money, and the move galvanised the band after “a reset” following their 2008 soundtrack for stunning nature documentary The Crimson Wing. There they met Sumney, one of a host of artists to feature on the new record alongside fellow rising soul artist Tawiah and previous collaborators Roots Manuva, Heidi Vogel and Grey Reverend.

The latter, a contributing member since 2006’s album Ma Fleur, went on to sing To Build A Home, perhaps The Cinematic Orchestra’s best known song to date through countless uses on TV and film.

Swinscoe, currently preparing for a show in Paris before these UK dates, says it wasn’t just Sumney’s evocative harmonies which attracted his and Smith’s attention. The young singer helped shape the record’s thematic focus too.

“Moses has a knowledge and wisdom for his years which is incredible,” says Swinscoe. “As we worked on the track To Believe, we had lots of conversations about belief and the questioning of belief in a wider sense, on a global scale, and how that intersects with capitalism, politics and technology.”

Though begun in LA, I Believe was also recorded in London with Roots Manuva, who fronts the evocative, seven-minute epic A Caged Bird/Imitation Of Life. It was finished at Jimi Hedrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York, where Grey Reverend aka Larry Brown recorded vocals to mighty album centrepiece Zero One/This Fantasy.

Brown will play at these gigs alongside other long-serving members such as drummer Luke Flowers and saxophonist Tom Chant. Though Swinscoe conducts and leads the band live - notably through their extensive improvised passages - he says the outfit is not about one person’s vision.

“The Cinematic Orchestra is about the community,” he says. “Every musician is important. Everybody involved, on stage and behind the stage, they are not more or less important than others. It’s a constant critique, a collective kind of vibe, of consciousness in terms of how we engage with a musical language. How we communicate among ourselves is then translated to the wider community on a global level.”

That communitarian, discursive ethos informed how I Believe developed and what Swinscoe et al hope to achieve - to help spark a more critique, more questions.

“When Dom and I started writing this record, we talked about politics, architecture, music and the state of the world,” he says. “We wanted to put all that into our music.”

Swinscoe continues: “This album is being released at a time when belief is very relevant and we were aware of this. We saw how American politics and British politics were breaking apart. It’s not about ‘We told you so’. It’s about when you can see the cracks and nobody is reacting, that’s when it’s worrying. We’re trying to put this big question mark out there and it seems that people are really getting it.”