Since first being commissioned by the Arts Council in 2009 as a live dubstep project to be performed at the Yorkminster Cathedral, Submotion Orchestra have gone from strength to strength by producing a critically acclaimed first album and releasing their second studio album, “Fragments”, last month. The Leeds based collective – constructed around Tommy Evans of ‘Gentleman’s Dub Club’ fame and international music whizz Dom ‘Ruckspin’ Howard – are building up a solid fanbase in 2012 with a new UK tour and tonight’s appearance in Bristol was my chance to find out what all the fuss was about.
Often pigeon-holed somewhat unfairly as a “dubstep” act due to the reverberant bass-heavy drum patterns that define many of the band’s songs, it is clear to see that upon closer inspection the seven-piece outfit bring so much more to the table. Both albums and the live show clearly display their expansive ability to dip in and out of a melting pot of genres, ranging from avant-garde jazz and ambient electro dub, all the way through to percussive garage stompers and pounding drum’n’bass.
Entering the cavernous pit of the 02 Academy just as the band took to the stage, probing spotlights scanned the darkness to illuminate the vast array of electronic gadgets and eclectic instruments on display. As the musicians assembled, a large screen that had been placed at the rear of the stage sprung into life to provide hypnotic visuals as a backdrop to the explosion of sounds that were about to erupt up front. Kicking off proceedings, experimental trumpeter Simon Beddoe sprung into action to provide a mesmerising solo that slowly built in intensity to welcome lead singer, Ruby Wood, to the stage. With a throbbing start to the performance that tested the speakers with guttural bass rumblings, each member of the band was introduced, gradually merging their sounds together towards a progressive jam style that would come to define the night. With silky smooth vocals from Miss Wood that seemed to soar above and between the waves of riotous bass lines and cumulative jazz-infused digressions, it was clear to see the 90’s trip-hop influences that cast a watchful gaze over this diverse band.
Fluctuating between swaying ambient beats to chest-pounding basslines that induced some serious moves being pulled out in the pit, Submotion Orchestra demonstrated an impressive range of ear tingling delicacies that were highly experimental in their nature. Sometimes getting a little lost in the progressive freestyling that these musicians clearly thrive on, Ruby Wood frequently served as a guiding figure that got them back on track to play hip-shaking album favourite “It’s Not Me It’s You” and powerful slow groovers such as “Sunrise” and “Eyeline”.
Blending moments of frenzied rave electricity with soul soothing seduction, Submotion Orchestra have cranked up the bass and judging by tonight’s performance it looks as though they’ve set it to eleven.