Black Flower ‘Future Flora’ LP/CD (Sdban Ultra) 3/5

‘Future Flora’ is the third album from Black Flower, a fusion quintet based in Belgium. Its music is a bass heavy instrumental hybrid of dub, jazz and rock incorporating various traditional or folk styles. ‘Future Flora’, as described by bandleader, saxophonist and composer Nathan Daems, ‘is a metaphor for the importance of feeding and watering powerful and revolutionary ideas and initiatives that can save our world. You can compare it with plants that fight between the paving stones of the city for their future. These “urban warriors” need water to survive and grow. Their future and ours depends entirely on how we look at the plant world’

‘Early Days of Space Travel Pt. 2’ is a promising start to the set. A horn drone gives way to driving bass reminiscent of 80s ska revivalists and ethereal liquid horns before dropping into a heavily-effected space bass solo. The horns are joyous but there’s also pleasing slight menace. The mix feels primal and ancient. ‘Maloya Bud’ sets off with a slower bass line. Hypnotic serpentine horns weaving in and around the dubby groove. ‘Hora de Aksum’ is introduced by the folky saxophone melody and jaunty bursts of keyboard emphasising the syncopated rhythm. The horns explore the theme established by the sax motif. ‘Clap Hands’ reassuringly begins with the sound of hands clapping! The insistent rhythm section quickly locks into an energetic groove. It is probably the most direct track of these tunes and is very danceable. For ‘Ohm Eye’, the swirling keyboard-led wash is the platform for the blissful flutes. Its stillness is wondrously beautiful. The strident bass lines return to provide the backbone for the sub-reggae feel of ‘Ankor Wat’. The album closes with the striking grandeur of ‘Future Flora’. The epic title track begins with solo saxophone hinting toward the motifs to follow. The main theme is a swirling melody line of various horns over a consistent groove. As the bass builds towards the end accompanied by wah-wah stabs and ascending horns, it is strangely reminiscent of one of Isaac Hayes’ classic symphonic soul workouts in full flow before the conclusive return to the theme.

One of the main tenets of the Black Flower project appears to be an exploration of folk and traditional musical flavours to incorporate into its heavy rhythmic dubby template. This is admirable but perhaps sometimes it is a distraction to the process of producing coherent and distinctive tracks. While I enjoyed listening to this album, it has hardly left a lasting impression on me. However, there are a few really tasty tracks and some true moments of excellence on this album. I can recommend giving it a spin.

Kevin Ward