Future Flora, released last month, is the third album by the Belgian psychedelic/Ethio jazz group Black Flower.
The album is flooded with blaring horns and strong driving bass lines. Meanwhile, the drums provide a strong and steady foundation for other instruments to flourish and occasionally go wild.
Opener ‘Early Days of Space Travel Pt.2’ starts off with a brilliant bass line, similar to Radiohead’s ‘The National Anthem’. They flirt with breaking the song down once the horns kick in but are quick to revert back to the opening gambit. They conclude the song with a cool homage to the song ‘Aquarela do Brasil’, popularised in the 1985 film ‘Brazil’.
There are more unexpected turns on this record. ‘Hora de Aksum’ places duelling horns alongside a stabbing organ reminiscent of Jay-Z’s ‘Hard Knock Life’. Conversely in ‘Ankor Wat’ we are treated to Doors-y organ sounds. Whilst in the final section of the 13-minute closer ‘Future Flora’ is a guitar line that would not have seemed out of place on the soundtrack to many Spaghetti Westerns.
However, I do wonder if certain elements are crowded out due to the heaviness of the horns on the album. I found my own interest perked when the distracting squealing of the saxophone was toned down or even completely vacant. This is a shame since the playing itself is impressive but the sheer relentlessness isn’t always appreciated.
The opening and closing tracks are without a doubt the strongest points on this album. They act as solid bookends. The rest of the album is filled with varying levels of potential. This is with exception to the middle of the album, which sadly lacks any real zip to make it worthwhile.
‘Clap Hands’ is instantly forgettable. This may not be the fault of the song itself as by this point we have already had three songs with almost identical instrumentation and approach. And whilst at first ‘Ohm Eye’ offers promise, by the time it is over you wonder what its purpose was – other than being album filler.
Disappointingly, it isn’t until the album closer that the band really commits itself to take the stabilisers off. For most of the album, their exploration into a free-form style lasts mere moments before returning to the safety of the melodies and rhythmic patterns that had kicked the songs off.
Of course, the band could be forgiven for not wanting to stick the listener with too many tracks above the ten-minute mark. But this resulted in some tracks sounding as if they were being held back.
Black Flower have found a formula, and I’d assume it serves them pretty well. I could certainly imagine the songs on ‘Future Flora’ coming into their own in a live environment. But on this record, the beauty, the randomness and the sheer rashness you come to expect within this particular genre aren’t always blaring.