Submotion Orchestra is a seven-piece electro-pop project out of the UK now on its fifth album as a collective, calling to mind, probably, Florence + the Machine as the closest comparison point. And I was really trying to avoid listening to the new Florence + the Machine album, so I’m quite glad I discovered these guys and girl (lead singer).
Piano, and specifically, certain piano pop techniques grown to edifying heights not unlike in Coldplay’s Chris Martin, also play a key role in forging this music’s identity and knack for channeling an intimate and cathartic feel. Aside from that, it’s mostly programmed drums and the female singer’s voice that steer the direction here — the vocals beautiful but almost awkward like a girl singing Hercules & Love Affair, the drums lithe and ready to assume any of a multitude of forms from trap to dubstep and back, often canopying some spooky, spliced and angry sounding bass. Without doubt, this is music that is uneasy, commendable for having a wealth of 21st-century Brit-pop influences already listed, and also for grafting this anthemic element of the singer’s meaningful croons against a busy, almost chaotic rhythm section (or rhythm-desktop) backdrop that Bjork herself might have been proud to orchestrate.
Ominous, expressionist strings sprinkle themselves onto the second half of “Night,” creating a dark vibe that might remind you of Grimes covering White Town or the Primitive Radio Gods. One feather in Submotion Orchestra’s cap, though, and which is almost an undeniably an advantage of their being seven minds lording over each of these tracks, is that even with this darkness, they can turn the mood on a dime and usher back in that anthemic Coldplay piano, confusing the mood in a fresh way if only ‘cause, Christ, they CAN. Just when you think things might get sterile, then, with all this typical electro pop emotional bombast, the title track opens with about a minute straight of just trumpets — what sounds like about three or four different parts playing in unison — planting down this little mini-movement then giving way into more jazzy, minor-chord piano pop. What might come as a surprise to the listener is that this isn’t at all, though I’m extolling it, music for listening to at work or in a bar (I know I’m like Mr. Bar Rat a lot of times). I am fully looking ahead to fall and winter with this puppy here and what’s going to identify the pain and loneliness in me as I search for music that is true and meaningful. Like all the songs, though it’s genuine and piercing, “Kites” BREATHES, sonically speaking, making it of course a refreshing departure from Florence + the Machine, professing all the while a love for rhythm and for more of that dark, ominous bass. It only took 80 years or so, but hey, at least the British are finally coming around to jazz a little bit.