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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

The Cinematic Orchestra with The London Metropolitan Orchestra and Heidi Vogel – Live at The Royal Albert Hall, November 2010

A Review of The Cinematic Orchestra Live at The Royal Albert Hall, November 14. Featuring an interview with their vocalist, Heidi Vogel

Written by Helen Martin


All illustrations by Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is very much the sonic embodiment of its band members. Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl are intrigued by everything around them and distill this into the music that they make, approved troche like two wide-eyed innocents, holding each others hands and trying to make sense of the wonders and absurdities of life with the aide of a couple of mics and a multitude of instruments. Their recently released new album Acoustic Sessions (which can be brought here) acts as the perfect showcase for their union as both musical and romantic collaborators. Sean and Charlotte duet together on every track; her voice is as delicate as a thimble and rings clear as a bell, a perfect addition to Sean’s deeper timbre (which interestingly, has the slightest trace of a Liverpudlian burr to it when he sings). The songs are whimsical without being twee, and while they pay homage to 60′s folk-pop, there is no element of pastiche.

My hour spent with Sean and Charlotte on their whistle-stop touchdown in London was an illuminating peek into the high-octane lifestyle of two very in-demand individuals. While most of our music interviews take place in make-shift back stage areas, this interview is conducted 22 floors up at the William Morris Agency housed in London’s Centre Point Building. The plush meeting room offers sweeping views across central London. Managers and PR’s field incoming emails and update schedules on ever buzzing Blackberries, but thankfully Sean and Charlotte seem unaffected by the surrounding melee. The first surprise of the morning comes when they reveal that the print version of Amelia’s Magazine was one of their favourite publications. “We’ve read almost every single issue!” exclaims Sean as Charlotte explains that their sound engineer on Acoustic Sessions introduced them to us and subsequently, the Amelia’s Magazine issues were the go-to reading material as the album was recorded.

As abstract as one of their self-designed illustrations, the interview takes the form of a free flowing stream of consciousness with Sean and Charlotte finishing off one another’s sentences and thoughts. (Their website wasn’t wrong when it wrote that The GOASTT work from one heart despite having two separate minds). While it wasn’t the typical Q+A that I was anticipating, it was way more fun – and fascinating – to touch on topics such as geodesic domes, Bauhaus, Buckminster Fuller, synesthesia, the phallic stature of city buildings, and what this represents in society – over to Sean on this one: “Joseph Campbell says if you look at the history of architecture you can see what the value system of society was like. The idea is that whatever the biggest object in your city is is what you care about the most. In the beginning of civilization it was your hut i.e your home; in the middle ages we had churches as our spiritual centers and now the biggest buildings are banks, so it shows that we worship money now.” As seemingly random as the threads of conversation were at the time, looking back over my notes I could see that it’s all part of Sean and Charlottes conviction that everything is connected; art, music, culture; so why not question and draw inspiration from what’s around us?

While Sean has had both a solo career and been involved in other bands, The GOASTT seems like his most personal endeavor to date. “It’s the work that I’m most excited about having done since I’ve met Charlotte” he says, adding “it’s a good time, an inspiring time for us”. Sean’s musical lineage is well documented, but Charlotte is somewhat of an unknown force. I asked her about her background. “I had written a lot of folk music”, she explained, “but it wasn’t for commercial purposes. I was travelling a lot when I was younger doing modelling and at that point my only companion was a guitar.” With no firm musical direction, she abandoned her music, but when she met Sean she found her inspiration, and received a crash course in Sean’s prolific record collection. “Folk and classical music was my only background, and Sean was a rolodex of so many different musical genres; he played me so much music that I had never heard of and it just blew my mind.” Sean reminisces about the first time he heard Charlotte’s music; “She kept it a secret that she played at all and I found it very mysterious. She had written all these songs and didn’t tell me till we had been dating for a year, and then she played them to me and I was like: ‘wow’…….. ” Joining forces, they embarked on an outpouring of work. “We wrote, like, 50 songs quickly. There was a lot of chemistry, not just in our relationship but creatively.” Charlotte is quick to praise Sean’s musical versatility: “I think Sean is so schizophrenic musically because he’s so talented. I’ve heard him playing so many styles, from folk, to funk, to..” “To flunk”, chimes in Sean helpfully, “that’s funk and folk combined”. (Is it? I need to do some research on this).

We talk about the nature of the album, and the fact that it’s entirely acoustic (the clue’s in the title). “It’s funny”, says Sean, “because someone asked us if this record was a concept album, and it’s not per se, except that there is one concept which is that we wanted to do everything on the record by just the two of us – no one else plays on it – and all the instruments are non electrical.” I remark that all of their performances feature a lot of instruments being used; guitars, cymbals, melodicas and xylophones are laid around Sean’s and Charlotte’s feet, ready to be picked up and played. “The record that you hear is very much live” confirms Sean, “and in order to recreate that live we had to figure out how to multi-task with our instruments which makes the show a lot more exciting for us – although I don’t know if it does for the audience!” (FYI, their set at The Roundhouse Studio on the following night was seamless and very well received).

Their days are currently filled up with gigs around the globe, most of the day performing strictly as The GOASTT, occasionally pulling in musical friends of theirs. If that doesn’t keep them busy enough, the band is housed by their own record label, Chimera Music which they run from their home in New York. Also signed to Chimera is his mother Yoko’s group; The Plastic Ono Band, of which Sean is musical director. (Sean and Charlotte had come to London by way of Iceland, where he was overseeing the Plastic Ono Band gig, held in honour of what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday). All in all, it’s an incredibly busy and productive time for Sean and Charlotte, and as ever, they are looking ahead at future plans and collaborations.


All illustrations by Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is very much the sonic embodiment of its band members. Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl are intrigued by everything around them and distill this into the music that they make, more about like two wide-eyed innocents, advice holding each others hands and trying to make sense of the wonders and absurdities of life with the aide of a couple of mics and a multitude of instruments. Their recently released new album Acoustic Sessions (which can be brought here) acts as the perfect showcase for their union as both musical and romantic collaborators. Sean and Charlotte duet together on every track; her voice is as delicate as a thimble and rings clear as a bell, capsule a perfect addition to Sean’s deeper timbre (which interestingly, has the slightest trace of a Liverpudlian burr to it when he sings). The songs are whimsical without being twee, and while they pay homage to 60′s folk-pop, there is no element of pastiche.

My hour spent with Sean and Charlotte on their whistle-stop touchdown in London was an illuminating peek into the high-octane lifestyle of two very in-demand individuals. While most of our music interviews take place in make-shift back stage areas, this interview is conducted 22 floors up at the William Morris Agency housed in London’s Centre Point Building. The plush meeting room offers sweeping views across central London. Managers and PR’s field incoming emails and update schedules on ever buzzing Blackberries, but thankfully Sean and Charlotte seem unaffected by the surrounding melee. The first surprise of the morning comes when they reveal that the print version of Amelia’s Magazine was one of their favourite publications. “We’ve read almost every single issue!” exclaims Sean as Charlotte explains that their sound engineer on Acoustic Sessions introduced them to us and subsequently, the Amelia’s Magazine issues were the go-to reading material as the album was recorded.

As abstract as one of their self-designed illustrations, the interview takes the form of a free flowing stream of consciousness with Sean and Charlotte finishing off one another’s sentences and thoughts. (Their website wasn’t wrong when it wrote that The GOASTT work from one heart despite having two separate minds). While it wasn’t the typical Q+A that I was anticipating, it was way more fun – and fascinating – to touch on topics such as geodesic domes, Bauhaus, Buckminster Fuller, synesthesia, the phallic stature of city buildings, and what this represents in society – over to Sean on this one: “Joseph Campbell says if you look at the history of architecture you can see what the value system of society was like. The idea is that whatever the biggest object in your city is is what you care about the most. In the beginning of civilization it was your hut i.e your home; in the middle ages we had churches as our spiritual centers and now the biggest buildings are banks, so it shows that we worship money now.” As seemingly random as the threads of conversation were at the time, looking back over my notes I could see that it’s all part of Sean and Charlottes conviction that everything is connected; art, music, culture; so why not question and draw inspiration from what’s around us?

While Sean has had both a solo career and been involved in other bands, The GOASTT seems like his most personal endeavor to date. “It’s the work that I’m most excited about having done since I’ve met Charlotte” he says, adding “it’s a good time, an inspiring time for us”. Sean’s musical lineage is well documented, but Charlotte is somewhat of an unknown force. I asked her about her background. “I had written a lot of folk music”, she explained, “but it wasn’t for commercial purposes. I was travelling a lot when I was younger doing modelling and at that point my only companion was a guitar.” With no firm musical direction, she abandoned her music, but when she met Sean she found her inspiration, and received a crash course in Sean’s prolific record collection. “Folk and classical music was my only background, and Sean was a rolodex of so many different musical genres; he played me so much music that I had never heard of and it just blew my mind.” Sean reminisces about the first time he heard Charlotte’s music; “She kept it a secret that she played at all and I found it very mysterious. She had written all these songs and didn’t tell me till we had been dating for a year, and then she played them to me and I was like: ‘wow’…….. ” Joining forces, they embarked on an outpouring of work. “We wrote, like, 50 songs quickly. There was a lot of chemistry, not just in our relationship but creatively.” Charlotte is quick to praise Sean’s musical versatility: “I think Sean is so schizophrenic musically because he’s so talented. I’ve heard him playing so many styles, from folk, to funk, to..” “To flunk”, chimes in Sean helpfully, “that’s funk and folk combined”. (Is it? I need to do some research on this).

We talk about the nature of the album, and the fact that it’s entirely acoustic (the clue’s in the title). “It’s funny”, says Sean, “because someone asked us if this record was a concept album, and it’s not per se, except that there is one concept which is that we wanted to do everything on the record by just the two of us – no one else plays on it – and all the instruments are non electrical.” I remark that all of their performances feature a lot of instruments being used; guitars, cymbals, melodicas and xylophones are laid around Sean’s and Charlotte’s feet, ready to be picked up and played. “The record that you hear is very much live” confirms Sean, “and in order to recreate that live we had to figure out how to multi-task with our instruments which makes the show a lot more exciting for us – although I don’t know if it does for the audience!” (FYI, their set at The Roundhouse Studio on the following night was seamless and very well received).

Their days are currently filled up with gigs around the globe, most of the day performing strictly as The GOASTT, occasionally pulling in musical friends of theirs. If that doesn’t keep them busy enough, the band is housed by their own record label, Chimera Music which they run from their home in New York. Also signed to Chimera is his mother Yoko’s group; The Plastic Ono Band, of which Sean is musical director. (Sean and Charlotte had come to London by way of Iceland, where he was overseeing the Plastic Ono Band gig, held in honour of what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday). All in all, it’s an incredibly busy and productive time for Sean and Charlotte, and as ever, they are looking ahead at future plans and collaborations.


All illustrations by Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is very much the sonic embodiment of its band members. Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl are intrigued by everything around them and distill this into the music that they make, order like two wide-eyed innocents, holding each others hands and trying to make sense of the wonders and absurdities of life with the aide of a couple of mics and a multitude of instruments. Their recently released new album Acoustic Sessions (which can be brought here) acts as the perfect showcase for their union as both musical and romantic collaborators. Sean and Charlotte duet together on every track; her voice is as delicate as a thimble and rings clear as a bell, a perfect addition to Sean’s deeper timbre (which interestingly, has the slightest trace of a Liverpudlian burr to it when he sings). The songs are whimsical without being twee, and while they pay homage to 60′s folk-pop, there is no element of pastiche.

My hour spent with Sean and Charlotte on their whistle-stop touchdown in London was an illuminating peek into the high-octane lifestyle of two very in-demand individuals. While most of our music interviews take place in make-shift back stage areas, this interview is conducted 22 floors up at the William Morris Agency housed in London’s Centre Point Building. The plush meeting room offers sweeping views across central London. Managers and PR’s field incoming emails and update schedules on ever buzzing Blackberries, but thankfully Sean and Charlotte seem unaffected by the surrounding melee. The first surprise of the morning comes when they reveal that the print version of Amelia’s Magazine was one of their favourite publications. “We’ve read almost every single issue!” exclaims Sean as Charlotte explains that their sound engineer on Acoustic Sessions introduced them to us and subsequently, the Amelia’s Magazine issues were the go-to reading material as the album was recorded.

As abstract as one of their self-designed illustrations, the interview takes the form of a free flowing stream of consciousness with Sean and Charlotte finishing off one another’s sentences and thoughts. (Their website wasn’t wrong when it wrote that The GOASTT work from one heart despite having two separate minds). While it wasn’t the typical Q+A that I was anticipating, it was way more fun – and fascinating – to touch on topics such as geodesic domes, Bauhaus, Buckminster Fuller, synesthesia, the phallic stature of city buildings, and what this represents in society – over to Sean on this one: “Joseph Campbell says if you look at the history of architecture you can see what the value system of society was like. The idea is that whatever the biggest object in your city is is what you care about the most. In the beginning of civilization it was your hut i.e your home; in the middle ages we had churches as our spiritual centers and now the biggest buildings are banks, so it shows that we worship money now.” As seemingly random as the threads of conversation were at the time, looking back over my notes I could see that it’s all part of Sean and Charlottes conviction that everything is connected; art, music, culture; so why not question and draw inspiration from what’s around us?

While Sean has had both a solo career and been involved in other bands, The GOASTT seems like his most personal endeavor to date. “It’s the work that I’m most excited about having done since I’ve met Charlotte” he says, adding “it’s a good time, an inspiring time for us”. Sean’s musical lineage is well documented, but Charlotte is somewhat of an unknown force. I asked her about her background. “I had written a lot of folk music”, she explained, “but it wasn’t for commercial purposes. I was travelling a lot when I was younger doing modelling and at that point my only companion was a guitar.” With no firm musical direction, she abandoned her music, but when she met Sean she found her inspiration, and received a crash course in Sean’s prolific record collection. “Folk and classical music was my only background, and Sean was a rolodex of so many different musical genres; he played me so much music that I had never heard of and it just blew my mind.” Sean reminisces about the first time he heard Charlotte’s music; “She kept it a secret that she played at all and I found it very mysterious. She had written all these songs and didn’t tell me till we had been dating for a year, and then she played them to me and I was like: ‘wow’…….. ” Joining forces, they embarked on an outpouring of work. “We wrote, like, 50 songs quickly. There was a lot of chemistry, not just in our relationship but creatively.” Charlotte is quick to praise Sean’s musical versatility: “I think Sean is so schizophrenic musically because he’s so talented. I’ve heard him playing so many styles, from folk, to funk, to..” “To flunk”, chimes in Sean helpfully, “that’s funk and folk combined”. (Is it? I need to do some research on this).

We talk about the nature of the album, and the fact that it’s entirely acoustic (the clue’s in the title). “It’s funny”, says Sean, “because someone asked us if this record was a concept album, and it’s not per se, except that there is one concept which is that we wanted to do everything on the record by just the two of us – no one else plays on it – and all the instruments are non electrical.” I remark that all of their performances feature a lot of instruments being used; guitars, cymbals, melodicas and xylophones are laid around Sean’s and Charlotte’s feet, ready to be picked up and played. “The record that you hear is very much live” confirms Sean, “and in order to recreate that live we had to figure out how to multi-task with our instruments which makes the show a lot more exciting for us – although I don’t know if it does for the audience!” (FYI, their set at The Roundhouse Studio on the following night was seamless and very well received).

Their days are currently filled up with gigs around the globe, most of the day performing strictly as The GOASTT, occasionally pulling in musical friends of theirs. If that doesn’t keep them busy enough, the band is housed by their own record label, Chimera Music which they run from their home in New York. Also signed to Chimera is his mother Yoko’s group; The Plastic Ono Band, of which Sean is musical director. (Sean and Charlotte had come to London by way of Iceland, where he was overseeing the Plastic Ono Band gig, held in honour of what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday). All in all, it’s an incredibly busy and productive time for Sean and Charlotte, and as ever, they are looking ahead at future plans and collaborations.

Cinematic Orchestra by Matilde Sazio

Man With A Movie Camera Illustration by Matilde Sazio

The Cinematic Orchestra were playing on the laptop. With the rain petering down outside, sildenafil the tarmac awash with its newfound uninhabitable river, page I opened the enormous wooden door and peered outside. I didn’t want to go and rush away with the stream of no return. I wanted to stay here, erectile with him. His jeans were baggy and beautiful, his carpet pulled at the soles of my tights. I left. To Build A Home faded.

Walking back along the slippery treadmill of road I made no effort to shelter from the swiping blankets of droplets. My brow furrowed and my eyes looked up as I stood at the top of the hill and looked at the sea from left to right, my heart taking my breath away. Unquestionably gluttonous for punishment I fell into my room and To Build A Home was alive again. I was confused. I was in love.

Dawn by The Cinematic Orchestra is on and i’m walking to the beach, with a cider and baguette in my backpack. It’s a beautiful sunny day and the strings mix with the birds as I feel my eyes glint in the harmony of the simplicity of now. Of this love sitting against the wall.

The Royal Albert Hall Karina Yarv

The Royal Albert Hall Illustration by Karina Yarv

I’m at The Royal Albert Hall, Breathe by The Cinematic Orchestra is playing live. The London Metropolitan Orchestra are stationed and moving with fierce precision. The circle envelops me, I look and he smiles. I peer the miles down from our sectioned box and I see Heidi Vogel is about to unleash and pour her voice over the hall again. She does it slowly and blends with the instruments before together they gallop and circulate the grand hall, swirling us up in a haze of stunning sound.

Heidi Vogel by Matilde Sazio

Heidi Vogel, Illustration by Matilde Sazio

The Cinematic Orchestra in their live form are impressive and encapsulating. Like tablets of emotion, they use their prowess to orchestrate and leave impressions upon the many. They were formed in 1999 by Jason Swinscoe. A Ninja Tune employee, he arrived in South London from Scotland, via Yorkshire and Cardiff. With a love of jazz bass players, rhythm sections and film soundtracks he worked on The Cinematic Orchestra in his own time. After getting together a group of jazz players, he delivered the debut album, ‘Motion’, on the Ninja Tune. It was considered the perfect soundtrack to the dangerous bar, the femme fatale, the hero and the dead, with throbbing riffs, repeated loops and instrumental phrases. It’s music on tenterhooks, awaiting the next explosion of this, that and everything.

HelsLights

The Cinematic Orchestra tracks certainly sound as though they have been lifted from a gorgeous, very visual film, yet of course these films do not exist. That is, they didn’t until their first film soundtrack came along in the shape of ‘Man With A Movie Camera’. In 1999. Swinscoe was asked by the organisers of the Porto European City of Culture 2000 if the band wanted to score a silent movie to open the celebrations. The film was Dziga Vertov’s ‘Man With A Movie Camera’, a 1929 early documentary cinema film from the Soviet Union, focusing on the daily life of an average worker. The work made the band think about unwrapping musical narratives slowly, combing sounds and textures. Influencing ‘Every Day’, the ‘Man With A Movie Camera’ album was released in 2003, on Ninja Tune. ‘Every Day’ was The Cinematic Orchestra’s second album, released again on Ninja Tune. With ten minute tunes, like ‘All Things to All Men’, they experimented with softly, softly orchestra mixed with moody deep notes. Swinscoe worked with bass player, Phil France on this album and enlisted the talents of Roots Manuva and modern Jazz legend, Luke Flowers.

‘Ma Fleur’ on Ninja Tune, is the band’s latest album, released in 2007, and features To Build A Home, as well as Breathe and Child Song. It feels very refined and yet sporadic in its waterfall outbursts of music. Adding to their film credentials, The Cinematic Orchestra also recorded the soundtrack to the Disneynature film The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos in 2008. They also released; Live At The Royal Albert Hall in 2008, on Ninja Tune, after their last performance at the prestigious Hall.

stage1

Listening to their music in such a venue can only be described as very special. It is one of those ‘nothing and yet everything matters right now’ moments. You are right there with every note, engulfed in a hall, reverberating in the clarity the sounds produce. It is difficult not to be moved by the rising and falling emotions, the burst of the strings, the flowing piano. The serene and yet momentous feeling. So what an earth can it be like to actually be on that stage, and play at The Royal Albert Hall, so steeped in grandeur, beauty and respect? I asked Heidi Vogel some questions about this after her incredible performance.

What was it like performing at The Royal Albert Hall last night?
It was a night I will never forget.  Performing at the Albert Hall,  on that beautiful stage,  and in such a beautiful space,  looking out to a sea of people filling the entire hall to its fullest capacity, is an experience unlike anything else.

Helsrah

What was the best moment for you?
Standing at the side of the stage waiting to come onto the stage for my first vocal of the evening, which was on ‘Burn Out’. I was so excited to come onto the stage and join in with the Orchestra, to be part of the music that was being made. I was standing there, all ready and the Orchestra had come in for the beginning of Ivo’s piano solo. It was such a moving moment in the music, and I felt my hairs standing up hearing it being played like that with The London Metropolitan Orchestra. It was really something so special.

How does the RAH compare to other venues around the world? Where in the world have you loved performing?
Well RAH can’t be compared to anywhere in the world,  it is so completely special and unique. I have played on many wonderful stages that I loved, and RAH is unique among them all. We have played in Sete in France in the open air Roman Amphitheatre on the sea, and lovely outdoor stages such as in Toronto Harbourfront, or Milan Jazz Festival, The Big Chill, Fuji Rock,  and many beautiful theatres, festivals and countries that we loved.

roof

This night was Ninja Tune’s 20th birthday, Ninja Tune XX. They celebrated with the band that produces real and imaginary film soundtracks, formed in the minds of people whose lives they have run beside. Without an actual film, the music lends itself to whatever narrative you bestow upon it. To me obviously, this has allowed me to wallow in my own sadness and skip in ecstasy (ha!) But to see The Cinematic Orchestra live was to feel the elation of an evening comprising of a huge range of talented musicians, performing beautifully. It was a night to rejoice in the achievement of humans producing descriptive and emotive sound that mirrors and acknowledges life in all its forms and idiosyncrasies.

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One Response to “The Cinematic Orchestra with The London Metropolitan Orchestra and Heidi Vogel – Live at The Royal Albert Hall, November 2010”

  1. [...] We watched the Cinematic Orchestra at The Royal Albert Hall. Very hard to put into words what it was like, but here is my attempt: Click HERE. [...]

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