Every genre needs a supergroup. With FLOW we finally have such a group in New Age music! I’m happy to report that their self-titled debut album is worthy of the «super» tag too. «FLOW» is a reminder of what made New Age music into an international phenomenon in the late 1980s, while at the same time showing why this genre is still relevant today.
FLOW consists of Australian pianist Fiona Joy, acoustic guitarist Lawrence Blatt, flugelhorn player Jeff Oster and Grammy Award-winning guitarist Will Ackerman. We must also mention Tom Eaton, who has produced the album together with Will at Imaginary Road Studios – and the magnificent Tony Levin on bass. With such a line-up, it is no wonder many New Age music fans have had high hopes for this release.
Today when every artist has access to an unlimited number of instruments through a basic laptop, it is easy to forget that music is a group effort. It is when talented artists come together, working on a mutual, inspired project, magical things start to happen. That was the history of Windham Hill Records, and that is what FLOW is all about today.
The opening track is called «Arrival». It has a wonderful, slow melody. The first few piano chords and the trumpet tell us that we have arrived at our destination. But there’s no ending here, the song just flows effortlessly over into «Whisper me this». It is simply brilliant sound design. You just have to keep on listening. «Whisper me this» is also interesting because it almost stops, there are some sweeping pads and what I believe is the sound of a coin falling, and then the beautiful flugelhorn theme returns like nothing has happened. It is a very promising opening indeed.
A group effort
«Flow» is the group’s signature track. Here every group member gets a well-deserved place in the limelight. In all its brilliance the song is a proof that, to quote Aristotle, «the whole is greater than the sum of its parts». «Flow» is a marvellous song, totally laidback and carefree.
After this amazing opening, the album shifts gear and we get a thoughtful and contemplative song called «Free Ascent». It adds darker colours and contrasts. It is not to last though. Next track out is «Waiting for sunshine». It is, like the title implies, a positive and uplifting song. I very much like the guitar parts. No wonder though. Here we have available some of the finest guitarists ever.
There are plenty of metaphors to flowing water on this album. Next track is called «Waters Gather». Here we have a guest appearance by Eugene Friesen on cello. It is a more serious song, illustrating the power – and perhaps destructive forces – of nature.
One of the best songs on the album is «And the sky was». The gentle and warm melody effortlessly jumps from piano to trumpet, over to electric guitar, then an acoustic guitar segment, and then back to the piano again. It is totally unpretentious, bare, genuine. If someone have doubts about this music project, this song will wash away those negative ideas. It is a magnificent song.
«A night in Nocelle» is short track, only around 3 minutes, but it feels much longer. The reason is because it has three parts. First the guitars have the stage for themselves, then whole group joins in, then the guitars round it up beautifully. «Tenth life» and «Rest now my friend» give us time to breathe and think. There are some quite nice guitar segments here too.
On the album’s last track we are introduced to some nice people, «For Rosita and Giovanni». The song has a lovely, gentle atmosphere and it brings with it a wonderful feeling of closure. It is a worthy end, and the 4 minutes are gone before you know it.
In conclusion: «FLOW» is a magnificent debut album. When talented and inspired artists work together, something magical will come to life. But FLOW is more than a music project. It is the definition of a whole genre. It is impossible not to be amazed by its beauty and power.
Score: 97/100 – See how I rate music here
Make sure to check out Flowthegroup.com, where you can pre-order the album.
Also, book your tickets to the big event on Friday October 6th: