Submotion Orchestra - Kites
The trippy jazz inspired IDM of Submotion Orchestra has always been varied and diverse throughout their five albums. In recent offerings the band dove more into house and dub-step elements which is why this new record feels like a return to form. The beats are far more meandering here, no rush is put in place to get the beats on the floor and instead gentle paino music seemingly guides you in. Ruby Wood's vocal pulls you in with it's warmth and beauty, just like this whole record. Kites really feels like elevated lounge music, the kind you would hear in a hip hotel or bar. The sounds someone who doesn;t really want to hear a jazz band but wants that vibe would try and cultivate. In this meandering though they do tend to lose themselves in the music and things just become background noise more often than not. The record is stunningly beautiful and the title track breathes in and out with intense vitality. Yet there is always a piece missing track after track. You are left wanting something intense, or something with a hard downbeat but it never truly comes. The songs feel expansive yet thin ticking all the boxes of something ambient but then never doing much with it. "Bridge" is this track with totally disparate sounds to open it, but then it goes into this totally minimal techno beat. but you never can fully buy in. This music feels like it slips too far into the background and remains there never punching through with any intention.
The one sense i instantly got when listening to this record was Zero 7. You can hear the gentle electronics and powerful female vocal both flowing as through lines but Zero 7 seemed like they took so many more risks, and really experimented with what ambient music could be. Submotion Orchestra on this record feel like they are just doing good ambient stuff rather than pushing much forward. When the electronics do come in and get big like on "Branches" the track fucking soars, through this ethereal soundscape that is mesmerizing but never quite goes far enough. "TUnnel" which pushes the beat hard is ruined by this trumpet line which sticks out and makes the track feel like more of a mashup. There is so much to like about this record but also so much to be bored with. It feels to safe and too pedestrian to make an impact. The album is able to wrap you up and keep you warm but other than that there just is not all that much going on. Background music is supposed to be easily forgettable yet fully pleasant and Kites does that, it just doesn't do much else.
5.8 out of 10