Review: Submotion Orchestra – Finest Hour

About two and a half years ago, I played a set at the New Cross Inn at a band night that a friend was running. As I recall the bands were pretty awful, but I remember seeing the second to last group vividly. Though Submotion Orchestra were being born in Leeds around the same time, the band I saw were called Nova and they played “Punk Step”, crudely fusing punk vocals and guitar with dirty synthy wobble. I can’t remember any of the songs and I didn’t hit up the merch table to pick up their EP, but Nova did spark an interest in me: an itch to see live dubstep done well. Since then, I’ve heard a few more attempts with varying levels of success, but the itch remained unscratched. That is, until this Leeds seven-piece band came along with their fourteen hands and their sexy, sexy album, Finest Hour.

Submotion Orchestra are much more than a live dubstep outfit. The all star cast was handpicked from the Leeds music scene by producers Tommy Evans (who drums in the band, as well as in Gentlemen’s Dub Club) and Dom Howard (also known as Ruckspin), after the Arts Council asked them to write and perform a live dubstep piece in Yorkminster Cathedral. Needless to say, the performance was a hit. With the help of a vastly talented group of musicians, Evans and Howard made the transition between electronic and live music seem effortless and natural. Completely avoiding the idea of trying to simulate electronic sounds with instruments, the group plays to its strengths and as a result create a harmonious marriage of jazz, soul and dubstep. Simultaneously classic and wonderfully contemporary.

Angel Eyes by Submotion Orchestra

The first track on the LP is bound to become an immediate favourite. ‘Angel Eyes‘ draws you in with the tantalising soulful vocal, subtly introducing strings and keys as it builds anticipation for the all-important introduction of bass and drums until two minutes in, and they’re worth the wait. The drums are deep and wholesome, reminding me on the second drop of the Digital Mystikz classic ‘Left Leg Out’, a release that is always a nice thing to be remedied of. The depth of the sub-bass is held back until the second track -‘Back Chat‘ is an epic seven minute odyssey, proving to any non believers the importance of Dom Howard’s role as producer and engineer in the band. With a variety of eerie synths and a bass line, the  Massive Attack comparisons that people have been drawing to Submotion Orchestra are seemingly justified.

When approaching the album as a fan of bass music rather than those who come to it as fans of jazz or soul music, the album does have some overly self indulgent moments. ‘Suffer Not‘ and the final track ‘Perfection‘ might be nice in a candle lit lavender scented bubble bath but they might not be everyone’s cup of tea with their emotional lyrics that stretch out so far that you might forget what she was saying in the first place. Generally speaking however, the jazzier moments are enjoyable. ‘Pop and Lock‘ is another favourite, the second half of which could have been picked straight out of a Bond film. The smooth trumpet work and rolling drums smack of secret agent.

All in all, Submotion Orchestra’s Finest Hour has a warm, resonant, weighty yet delicate feel throughout. Each and every track of the album is fresh and imaginative, and most importantly the tightness of the band can be traced back into the music. It’s a real pleasure and a great summer record and we strongly recommend that you pick it up before the holidays. Perfect for your sunny barbecue, poolside or anywhere with a warm breeze.

Perfection by Submotion Orchestra

Submotion Orchestra – Finest Hour. Out now.