Submo Orchestra release the album that fulfils their early promise
A third album is possibly the most important album in a band career. It is generally make or break. Chinks begin to appear in a band’s armour. For every Check Your Head there is a Fat of the Land. Luckily however Submotion Orchestra’s third album Alium is their strongest album to date.
What the Submo Orchestra has always done well is mix jazz, soul vocals and electronic music. While this isn’t new, Submo have always separated themselves from their peers through great arrangements, filthy bass and interesting production. This has been continued on Alium. Awakening opens the album. The song has a dreamlike, or nightmare quality to it. Repetitive prog synth loops drive the song, while woozy slabs of bass rumble and pulsate below. Faux mariachi horns add a sense of the surreal, this plays into the dream like nature of the song, while the song grows to the maelstrom at the end, sounding slightly like a Peter Best score from the 1980’s.
Time Will Wait opens with a salutary husky vocal, while in the background the music slowly builds and mimics the vocals in tone and volume. Then the woozy sub bass kicks in and the track changes direction. It’s not only ballad, but a banger. The tracks peak is when the two merge, creating something both touching and filthy. The rest of the album follows this formula. A bit of emotion, a bit of jazz, and a bit electronic filth. The strongest tracks however are the instrumentals. The band gets to flex their muscles and show what they can really do. Chrome Units is a perfect example of this. It uses intricate interplay, to create emotion, but never loses its dance floor credentials.
Alium shows that Submo are moving in the right direction, however this isn’t a perfect album. At times it’s hard to tell the tracks apart. SubMo excel at slow burning vocal tracks with heavy bass and horns, the few instrumental tracks to break this up, but at 57 minutes it feels like a long listen, and maybe a track, or two, could have been removed or shortened to make this the fantastic album it had the potential to be.