Flowers Of Hell - O (Optical Sounds)

Arranged from improvisations and recorded in one take, The Flowers Of Hell’s newest release O feels like staring deeply into a milky gemstone of shape and colour.

Released Dec 13th, 2010 via Optical Sounds / By Brendan Morgan
Flowers Of Hell - O (Optical Sounds) Among the swells of string and lonely trumpet, a single drifting tone evolves and reforms in the light. Respecting the law of the circle, there is no beginning or end to the piece and the meditative atmosphere is both soothing and unsettling, like something by Ligeti, only less dissonant.

For all of this however, O is stagnant and kind of tedious when compared to the epic travels of their first album Come Hell Or High Water (2009). Artistic musings aside, it is essentially forty five minutes of slow moving, rhythmless ambience – mildly intriguing in construction it’s just… nothing… really… happens. The group director, Greg Jarvis, wasn’t wrong when he called it “Business Suicide”. Is forty five minutes of droning art music worth shelling out on?

Aside from the recording itself, the record contains videos of the group performing O and four other tracks at gigs in Toronto and Prague. This is its raison d'être, otherwise the recording is geared up to be just another victim of stream and run. Watching Flowers Of Hell perform is a sumptuous experience, most acoustic gigs are. It reveals much of the bands wonder: their eclectic and textured use of instruments and a strong group connection that borderlines on the paranormal. The record was born out a very simple, almost Zen-like plan imbibing the aim of German absolute music: “music that is not explicitly about anything, music that simply is”.

Despite ongoing snobbery and its stodgy stigma, the vast range of Classical Music will forever provide material for the right minds. The Flowers Of Hell’s kind of Space Rock/Post Rock/Neo-Classical (classification overload) suggests a relation to the divine Godspeed You! Black Emperor who combine the grand compositional techniques of the Modern Avant-garde with the nihilism and riff basis of Rock. There have been many contenders but until discovering Flowers Of Hell I’ve not heard a band that carries on this visionary style with such courage. There are a lot of phonies and tourists in the art music world, hung up on THE IMAGE or THE IDEA of making intellectual or groundbreaking music. By sharing the stage and their projects with other musicians, Flowers Of Hell appear to be free of this self delusion (Come Hell or High Water featured musicians from Bat For Lashes, Broken Social Scene, Spiritualised and Spacemen 3 to name but a few).

The idea behind O is compelling enough to warrant a listen. It completes its task of being anyway (heh heh). But in the end, it only serves as a blank canvass for future possibilities. Being their first solo record, it makes me curious as to what their next project will be and who it will be with. All I ask is that they hold on to their edgy quality against a demanding environment for “relaxing” Classical music. So no pressure guys.