Submotion Orchestra: The Duchess, 22/10/12

A band that have done their best to defy the gravity of genre; Leeds-born Submotion Orchestra were potentially the most unique act to have filled the dance floor of the Duchess this year. Composed of an eclectic, eight-man band whose experience ranges from founder and drummer Tommy Evans’ part in Gentleman’s Dub Club to Ruckspin’s much desired talents as DJ-cum-viola player, the individuals’ influence tugs the sound in different directions. Yet somehow, they produce a harmony raised like Rome from the wolves of dissonance.

Warm-up acts The Marzec Group and Cornelia proved a successful starting point. Each at polarised ends of the spectrum; the former, student-household name provided a tangy blend of jazz and dub and the latter an engaging, electronic one-woman band. The crowd’s ranks did not swell until Submotion Orchestra finally emerged onto the stage, in one of the biggest turnouts I’ve seen at The Duchess. The one drawback of this was that that unless a fellow blessed with great height, you were forced to resort to craning your neck and jumping for even the briefest glimpses.

The band rolled through September-released album Fragments, opening with rousing ‘Intro’ they seemed to be suffering some audio problems – Ruby Wood (lead singer) making pained gestures to the sound guy at the rear. This minor blip was inaudible to the inexpert ear, however, and they smoothed on through.

They deftly dodged between songs with a range of musical horizons so vast I fear to describe them in single sentences. Gilles Peterson tried with “somewhere between Cinematic Orchestra and dubstep – just right!”. Different genres were swum with ease in heart-attack heart-beats. Trick rhythms kept you focused. Languid voices led complicated rhythms in a wonderfully disjointed sound. The trumpet’s moan made the whole affair very sexy.

Sheer breadth of variety meant there was something for everyone as long as you as you allowed yourself to be consumed and accepted the mellifluous discord. Marble melted into wax as contrasts bled into comparisons. Vague, I know, but utterly delightful.

Ruby stole the show for many there, as I heard one enraptured onlooker yell “She’s not even fit but her voice makes her attractive!”. Her charm of smile and hips had the crowd swaying with her like corn in a gale, all under a storm of lights.

A whooping encore brought out the band again for another few songs, most notably ‘Finest Hour’ which reached 4th in the electronic charts several years ago. Everyone’s ears perked up to a song they were surprised to recognise.

Submotion Orchestra have a unique talent – to make the listener enjoy a previously shunned genre by mixing and blending foreign sounds into something palatable for everyone. I highly recommend new album Fragments.

Tom Cox