The whole idea of Late Night Tales is to get an artist/ band and to present new arrangements of songs/compositions that were crucial to one’s development. Let’s say, if I had to make an example, if Kurt Cobain had been asked to create his version of Late Night Tales, he would have picked the Beatles, Sex Pistols, the Pixies. If Trent Reznor was asked to create his, he’d pick David Bowie, Kiss, Gary Numan, Coil, perhaps Depeche Mode. And so on, and so on. Various artists have created their own version of Late Night Tales. Some of them have little in common – Jamiroquai, the Flaming Lips, Belle & Sebastian, Fatboy Slim, Air and many many more contributed to the idea. The sixteenth album of the cycle is made by the Cinematic Orchestra. This is their choice of music which influenced them so much they decided to create their own. And? Well, for sure it’s not a disappointment.
The intro (Flying Lotus) brings a mystical, Far East Asian tune – that totally takes you with it. Meditational music. And easily turns into Nick Drake’s Three Hours – a song that could be easily part of one of the albums released by Nonesuch.
And the further you go, the more surprising it gets. Eddie Gale’s song for example starts as if it was a usual jazz standard, she starts to sing – it becomes suddenly lyrical – just to burst out with a chorus of voices which clearly take inspiration from the 1960’s, Broadway musicals and even gospel. But it’s just a mystification. The story flows on and becomes Terry Callier’s You’re Goin’ Miss Your Candyman – a hypnotical tune with a vocal which is partly blues, partly a hippie-like, transe-chant of the 1960’s (back again).
I don’t want to describe this album song by song. It’s really hard to do so. An amazing piece of art it is, and you cannot really consider it an album full of different songs by various artists. It’s more like a composition that includes nineteen tracks, a symphony that is built on different voices and different instruments, a mass. When you listen to it, it’s really hard to think of it as a compilation of separate songs. It’s more like a modern opera.
I didn’t find it tiring, I didn’t find it boring. I found it absolutely amazing, full of inspirations and great consequence and consistency, although the presented artists are very varied. The only thing that diminishes my enthusiasm a little is that… there is not enough Cinematic Orchestra in it. Maybe I’m wrong but I’d expect more of nu-jazz tracks and melodies. I got an album which is a mix of different songs, rather modern, remixed, a little bit (but only a little) relying on electro and synthpop – a brilliant piece but… if it had a different name written on it, I wouldn’t have guessed it’s an album by the Cinematic Orchestra. Sadly.
I don’t want to complain. It’s a great album. It’s well structured, it’s enchanting with rhythm and melodies, it’s soft and passionate at the same time – the most ideal late night you can imagine – but something is missing. And I feel like it doesn’t have enough of the influence of the artist that is supposed to play the key role in it. Frankly, I do not agree with accusations that it’s boring and that some of the songs don’t fit the whole. I didn’t get that feeling at all. It flows smoothly, from one song to the other, it’s intense and lyrical at the same time. It’s a perfectly organized form – so well organized that you do not think of separate tracks. But what it is missing is the Cinematic Orchestra in itself. I mean… where did the guys go?
I wouldn’t say that this album is a mistake. I am absolutely under the spell of it. I just don’t know what to think when it comes to authorship. Perhaps, one could look at it this way – it’s the voice of the modern world. Cumulated into one album. And it’s truly beautiful. But it puts you in a mood in which the first thing you do after listening to it is grabbing the first CD by the Cinematic Orchestra that is near you and just… damn, hear the guys play…