Music

Thunderball: Cinescope

At times sounding like the soundtrack to a cool '70s spy film that never was, Cinescope by Thunderball is as eclectic as it is funky.


Thunderball

Cinescope

Label: Eighteenth Street
US Release Date: 2006-10-17
UK Release Date: 2006-11-06
Amazon
iTunes

In the 21st century, the market for movie soundtrack recordings is surprisingly strong. People who would never sit through the abstract instrumentals of a Beethoven symphony or a Mozart string quartet will rush to the record store to snag copies of the movie music that accompanies swashbuckling pirates or mischievous hobbits. This tendency bodes well for the music of the trio known as Thunderball. On their latest album, the aptly titled Cinescope, the group delivers 12 tracks which contrast much of today's abstract, overly cerebral electronica and could serve as a soundtrack for an imagined movie.

Thunderball is the name for the Washington, D.C.-based production group consisting of Sid Barcelona, Steve Raskin, and Rob Myers. On its two previous full-length albums, Ambassadors of Style and Scorpio Rising, the group established a dance style that drew upon elements of downtempo, funk, and film music. All these elements surface on the group's latest album, Cinescope. This latest release proves that Thunderball's lack of mainstream success is a matter of exposure, not style. If more people could hear the group's work, the Thunderball fanbase would surely increase exponentially.

Cinescope kicks off with "The Road to Benares", which turns out to be the start of a musical journey of sorts. The album opens with the shimmer of an exotic glissando and soon proceeds to a steady beat augmented by Indian stringed instruments and hand percussion. Throughout the track, lush orchestral strings give the track an epic feel and enhance the cinematic quality of the music. This sprawling, exotic atmosphere spills over into the next track, "Electric Shaka".

Starting with the third track, Cinescope really gets funky. With its understated wah-wah guitar and prominent horn stabs, "Return of the Panther" sounds like a theme song for a hip secret agent from the '70s. The next track, "Get Up with the Get Down", sounds like a groovier sequel to "Land of a Thousand Dances" despite the female vocals. "Thunder in the Jungle" completes the funk trio in the middle of the album.

After the bouncy rhythms, scratchy guitar, and wild horns of the middle songs, Cinescope begins to slow down. "Strictly Rude Boy" displays a Jamaican influence that surfaces again in "To Sir with Dub". The styles in the last half of the album are even more varied than the first, and they include jazz, ("The Mysterious Mr. Sandobar" and "Elevated States") and Latin music ("ChicaChiquita"). The only real constants on the final half of Cinescope are the familiar orchestral strings and a more reserved tempo than that on the first few tracks.

Overall, Thunderball is much more accessible than other electronic artists. For many DJs, technical virtuosity is a goal in and of itself. The production on Cinescope is certainly skillful, but Thunderball's mixes never interrupt the party. One should also note that the group never sacrifices artistry to achieve their grooviness. All told, Cinescope, is a satisfying piece of music. It opens slowly and develops quickly. Once it reaches its energetic peak, it broadens into new stylistic territory before it ends on a reserved, meditative note.

With some modification, a famous cliché applies to this album. In the case of music, you are what you love. On many electronic albums, the DJs demonstrate a love for electronics, and the music that results appeals to those with a similar fascination with technology. On Cinescope, Thunderball demonstrates a love for movies, seventies funk, and exotic sounds. As a result, their music should appeal to people who aren't usually dance music fans. Cinescope is broad in scope and flawless in execution. Anyone looking for a good time or a good record should check it out.

7

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image