It's a well-known fact that artist/orchestra collaborations have about a fifty-fifty shot at success; too often the former can't resist the temptation of over-elaboration offered by the latter. For Fink - AKA Fin Greenall - we're pleased to say that here quite the reverse has ended up being true. Brought up in the West Country but via University of Leeds, Fink is one of the original pioneers of 'intelligent' dance music which began in the early nineties. A career spanning two decades has seen a distinct refinement of his sound into something profoundly earthly, his smoke dripping vocals and world weary acoustics leaving the narrow horizons of laptronica a world behind.
When offered the chance to work with Holland's revered Royal Concertbebouw Orchestra, it seemed like an opportunity to take the introspection that had flecked 2011's 'Perfect Darkness' album and broaden its spectrum; part concert, part multimedia event, the evening's work is captured here on something as humble as the good old CD.
In format, the evening wasn't solely Fink's, with half a dozen of his own songs (arranged by Jules Buckley of the Heritage Orchestra) accompanied by two pieces from the Dutch collective themselves, along with a versioning of Henry Purcell's 'What Power Art Thou'. Whilst it might seem a little churlish to describe them as instrumentals, those pieces on which Greenall is absent are much more for the purist; 'The Infernal Machine' spiralling into quiet/loud phases alive with menace and crescendo, whilst 'The Unanswered Question' is more indebted to richer atmospherics and a sultry mood.
In a sense though, any revelatory noises are far more likely to come from the guest artist's canon. Whilst normally shifting through folk and blues, on 'Berlin Sunrise' the arrangement allows the song to undulate, creating a spectacle which turns the original's broodiness into its strength, lifting it up. When the working trio that usually represents the band play unaccompanied, the contrast is stark but still compelling; with 'This Is The Thing' poking at the ground in its unique smokestack way, the sound of three is as wide and impressive as the 30.
Whether by sequencing or design, the finest moments come at the end; from the majestic brass introduction of 'Perfect Darkness' to the vibrant string textures of its interior, jazz phrasings and spaces in between working in synergy to create energy and calm. 'Closer Sort of Revolution' turns the aesthetic back on its head, a blur of dub juxtaposed with strings, morphing into a groove onto which Greenall pours words only sparingly, the see-sawing melodies around him enveloping the listener with the most tactile of hugs.
If the marginal success rate of these kinds of jams is at fifty percent, examples of the form that go on to fully transcend the envelope of being a project for the few into a bona fide end product - art and entertainment - are fewer still. For once, a big idea has turned into something with little pretensions and a fascinating heart.
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