Slowly Rolling Camera Invites Guests On Cinematic Soundscape LP ‘Where the Streets Lead’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

By now we know that jazz from the UK is generally different than even most of the mashed-up genre contemporary jazz we have here in the states, Slowly Rolling Camera (SCR) is a prime example. They hail from Wales, are now in their eighth year of recording, and blend jazz forms, some neo-soul, trip-hop, and electronica.  A reference point could be Gogo Penguin but SRC’s music is smoother, often wave-like, giving it a layered, cinematic feel that can range from ethereal to majestic.

The group centers on leader Dave Stapleton (keyboards), Elliot Bennett (drums), and Deri Roberts (production/sound design). Where the Streets Lead is their fifth album and as with past albums they invite several guests from their label, Edition Records, of which Stapleton is the owner. Several of these guests are leaders are quite formidable players including Mark Lockheart (soprano and tenor Sax), Stuart McCallum (guitar), Jasper Høiby (double bass) Verneri Pohjola (trumpet) Chris Potter (tenor sax), and Sachal Vasandani (vocals). McCallum, from Cinematic Orchestra, and Lockheart have appeared on previous SRC albums.

The opening “You Are the Truth” begins with ambient keyboards setting a floating atmosphere that gets enlivened mid-piece by propulsive drumming, McCallum’s stirring guitar and Lockheart’s soprano soaring above the fray. The title track is a keyboard-driven dreamy piece buoyed by sparse Fender Rhodes jabs and some longer Moog melodic statements. “Lost Orbits” begins more mysteriously, in keeping with its title with Stapleton and Roberts laying down a cosmic soundscape for Lockheart’s tenor to blow over. “The Afternoon of Human Life” features impressive drumming from Bennett who pushes Potter to one of his signature aggressive, extended tenor solos which keeps building in intensity. Stapleton responds with his multi-keyboard approach, matching this intensity across the swirling backdrop created by Roberts.

“Widest Possible Aperture” calms us with a minimalist Stapleton keyboard set against a steady beat and ambient, ethereal electronica. Lockheart breaks the flow with stirring soprano entry, building the piece, much like the opener “You Are The Truth” until it melts quietly away.  “Illuminate” features the spiritual lyrics of Sachal Vasandani who sings behind a veritable orchestra that includes all guests except Potter and the addition of an eight-piece string section, all of which Stapleton and McCallum punctuate with interwoven keyboards and guitar. 

“Feels Like Fiction” has shimmering keyboards dancing lightly above electronic soundscapes and Bennett’s light pattering, before Lockheart enters first on tenor and later on soprano, setting an emotive mood. Most of these pieces are multi-faceted, mixing the sounds of acoustic and electric instruments and embracing changes of mood and pace to create a strong narrative arc and a distinct cinematic quality. The closer, “A Force for Good” also falls into this camp with Lockheart and trumpeter Pohjola playing in counterpoint to Bennett’s drum grooves and Stapleton’s keys that form the backbone of the music with the ever-present Roberts’ electronics underpinning the soundscape.

 SRC makes dreamy, engaging music that will by turns surprise you, soothe you, and take you into a ‘get lost in the music’ state. 

 

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