The Cinematic Orchestra are all about the beauty of melancholy. Ma Fleur is this loose aggregation's fourth album. Apropos of the band name, New York-based Scottish composer/producer Jason Swinscoe — he plays not, neither does he sing — says the album is a "narrative," a soundtrack to an unmade movie. But that's pretty hypothetical for the listener. The musical experience is about minor keys, blue notes, sounds that hang in the air and demand you feel them — whether they're sparse jazzy piano chords or the rich, orderly sorrows of a string quartet.
It helps that about half the tracks include vocals. Most come from the Antony (of the Johnsons) soundalike Patrick Watson, a Canadian newcomer. But the real treat is that, for two songs, Swinscoe has gone back to Fontella Bass, the soul immortal remembered for "Rescue Me" who also guested on Cinematic Orchestra's 2002 album Everyday. In her late sixties and frail after a stroke, Bass has the knowledge and lack of ego to carry the weight of substantial reflection on mortality when she intones, "Oh that song… it carries me out into the sea and swallows me into the deep… and comforts me."