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Sound Advice: O by The Flowers of Hell

Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.

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In an age of nanosecond attention spans, it takes a lot of cojones to release an album that requires the patience of a Buddhist monk. Yet The Flowers of Hell have done just that with their third release O (out now via Optical Sounds), which consists of a single, forty-five-minute free-form instrumental track recorded in one exhaustive take.
The self-described “trans-Atlantic space rock orchestra,” made up of a revolving coterie of musicians from Toronto and London, begin the piece with a slow-percolating drone magnified by shivering strings, cymbal washes and far-away horns—much akin to the brooding opening score of an otherworldly sci-fantasy epic that’s about to unfold. But whereas a post-rock outfit like Godspeed You! Black Emperor would build this tension up until it reaches an explosive crescendo, The Flowers of Hell instead choose to relish in the “about to unfold” stage. Floating atmospherics gradually surge with nail-biting, foreboding pressure, only to subside into meditative lulls, and then swell up again. Listen to the 5.1 surround sound mix on the other side of the CD, and it’ll probably sound like God (or at least James Earl Jones) on the verge of an orgasm.
The aptly (or perhaps inaptly) titled O comes criminally close to a climax at the twenty-minute mark, when an eerie, contemplative movement burgeons into a turbulent, subsonic storm, but the calamity fades into a peaceful hush of muted trumpets and reverberating feedback (recorded immaculately by Fucked Up producer Jon Drew). It seems group mastermind and Toronto native Greg Jarvis—who has synesthesia, which allows him to perceive sounds as shapes and colours—is intrigued by deferred gratification: the casual ear waits and waits for a heavy beat to kick in, but it never comes. Rather than give listeners the payoff, Jarvis sees staggering beauty in anticipation left unsated, and hopes the little bodhisattva inside all of us can do the same.

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