In a sense, Submotion Orchestra have gone back to their first principles for fifth album ‘Kites’. The feeling was that while programmed electronica was serving them well, last album ‘Colours’ represented the peak of its potential. So they regrouped, drew on some very personal life experiences, including birth and death – and turned back towards the cinematic jazz that has served them so well from the outset. Given the subject matter, the vocal content for the album becomes ever more profound – and has its ideal vehicle in singer Ruby Wood. The fragility of her vocal is complemented by attractive arrangements, but sometimes it feels as though there could be more energy pushing through the musical arrangements. They suit an early morning or light night listen very well, but it is in tracks like ‘Tunnel’ where the music suddenly feels that bit more substantial, the driving percussion track matched well with a trumpet solo. Fans will certainly be drawn to it, and songs like ‘Variations’ and ‘Alone’ are beautifully wrought, the return to jazzier climes suiting the group. It’s just that for these ears at least a bit more raw power wouldn’t go amiss, given the materials they have at their disposal.
3 out of 5