Album Review: Black Flower – Artifacts [Sdban Ultra – 3rd February]


Man has the gift to create, the very element that makes our daily world such a fascinating and changing environment. Black Flower artfully present their appreciation for human conception by their own creation of new music using a diversity of sounds.  The inception of the album Artifacts from the Belgium-based band takes influence from their surroundings, and a union with man-made objects. It combines their historical roots, mixing Ethio-jazz with injections of Balkan, oriental and ska highs.  This forms a far-out, trippy, eccentric album that will captivate and mesmerise you. A sturdy backbone of African rhythms tie the songs together.

The group is led by Nathan Daems playing saxophone and flute.  He is joined by musicians Jon Birdsong, Simon Segers, Filip Vandebril and Wouter Haest on cornet, drums, bass and keys.  The five have an impressive project history individually, with Birdsong providing horns for the well-known band Calexico. In their latest partnership, they have received recognition from Gilles Peterson for their rare inventiveness.

Their second recording together starts with the main number ‘Bones’, which immediately entices you into pursuit of the track, Daems leads the song with oscillating melodies on oriental flute, set against a backdrop of hectic clattering percussion. The bass and flute pilot the groove, hand in hand, before the melody takes off to soar up high, whilst towering from above.  The highlight of this song comes from the introduction of the fluid sounds of a conch shell, sliding between tones bringing nature alongside man, wedding the concept of the album to the track.

One of the strengths of this offering is the variation of sensations and writing throughout. It is impossible to get bored listening from start to end. The second song ‘Alexandria’ brings out the fierce, rhythmically armed side of the band. This buoyant number is designed to get you up on the dance floor, with stimulating horn melodies and unabashed organ chords, set against funky drum patterns.

Artifacts closes with ‘Lunar Eclipse’. The reed-infused breathiness conjures images of wind blowing through uninhabited landscapes ready for exploration. As if leaving you on a cliff-hanger, this is where your musical exploration sadly ends. The discordant key stabs encourage visions of rugged lunar surfaces as you wonder what lies behind.  Maybe they’ll reveal more on their next album.

Black Flower are a band that on first listening may sound abstract and hard to digest, but upon further plays take you into a dreamlike exploration of illusory soundscapes.  Full of personality and character, this is an assemblage of innovative minds that master a brand new art piece which truly reflects our multifarious environment.

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