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& London Electronic Orchestra

There’s no disputing Kate Simko’s talent, vision and restlessness. Trained in classical and jazz piano, she studied music in her hometown of Chicago and in Santiago, and recently completed a masters in Composition for Screen at the Royal College of Music. As a producer she has a number of releases, film scores and classical compositions under her belt. Tying it all together, in 2014 Simko launched the London Electronic Orchestra, combining her own brand of easy-going house with the sophisticated sounds of strings, harp and piano.

When it works, it works. Lead single ‘Tilted’ sees the balance between Simko’s production and the orchestra hit a sweet spot. The kicks are punchy and the rim shots snappy, while the synths hold back, quivering away in the background. The orchestra softens the setup with finesse, a recurring piano motif adding a touch of icy depth.

Likewise, ‘Standchen’ develops around a morose harp melody, with razor sharp hats and dense bass puncturing the otherwise delicate atmosphere. There’s also a beautiful rendition of The xx’s ‘Intro’, probably the best indication of Simko’s capacity for orchestral arrangement.

Often though, it sounds like she's tried too hard to push the concept at the expense of the final product. Possibly due to her background, there’s a distinctly academic feel to much of the album. The electronics veer into mechanical, unimaginative territory, while the string section too often falls back on its typecast role of providing shallow suspense. Despite its highlights, the LP fails to maintain a creative and meaningful relationship between traditional and modern.

Aidan Daly