The Cinematic Orchestra has certainly been designed to compose and perform music for films, but that they are now involved with the Disney group is likely to be something even they could not have initially imagined. The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos is an evocative soundtrack behind the French documentary about the strikingly colorful, elegant, and noble but rarely seen pink birds. It is a Disneynature production shot in north Tanzania, with the CO receiving mighty support from string players of the London Metropolitan Orchestra. As a result, Jason Swinscoe and the CO have never been more symphonic or expansive than on this recording, where thematic horizons and deep-seeded romantic emotional content is at the very core of their music beyond previously recorded efforts. They've been consistent since their Canadian-based beginnings mixing electronica and jazz with R&B and trance grooves, but here take a giant leap into what is more a signature sound. With this recording, they are taking to heart their surname, with music that is more traditionally classical, while retaining the electronic and percussive undercurrent that identifies them as singularly unique. This soundtrack traces a journey similar to March of the Penguins, starting with the minimalistic and swelling "Opening Titles," the crystalline waltz and huge sound in "Arrival of the Birds," and a Latin-tinged "The Dance" in 5/4 time with castanets and marimba identifying their modal jazz leanings. Precious bells, thick harmonics, and shimmering breaths in 7/8 time signify "Soda," while the hymnal and reverent-at-dawn flute music in "Hatching" merges into tick-tock algorithms and amalgamated underground bass clarinet for "Marabon." As the film progresses, you can hear the sophistication of the flamingos' serene and supreme confidence move into maturity and earthiness. A folkish "Exodus" is easily comparable to the Americana style of Aaron Copland, "Transformation" takes into account a Steve Reich or Philip Glass horizon-waltz minimalism, the light-house-beacon stance of "Hyena" does not suggest laughing so much as flashes of on and off brilliance, while "Life of the Bird" has the ineffable quality of humid landscape music in a symphonic, two-beat foundation. Where "First Light" comes near the end of the movie in its under-the-surface, darkness-to-sunrise facade, "Crimson Skies" is the coda that evokes a vocalized love story between avian presence and nature that provides the perfect epilogue. Where there is mystery, there is also definition, beauty, delightful, unpredictable, and conclusive results that still leave the mind wandering, and wondering how many more layers are left to be peeled away in order to discover the inner sanctum of self. This music perfectly reflects an elusive aspect of living and life, matching how we see and revere creatures we cannot speak to or understand. But thanks to the Cinematic Orchestra, we have a better understanding through music about how these wondrous birds live, eat, play, commune, and above all -- dream.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
|The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos|