The Flowers of Hell


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Composed and performed as one extensive 40-plus minute track, O is very much the kind of thing that could have only appeared in the 21st century: a combined CD/DVD with extra video clips for a multimedia package that was only dreamed about in the early '90s when the first experiments in the medium were being put together. In an era where the impulse has been to either go strictly digital or to fetishize vinyl, it's a kind of statement of purpose for a form that seems to be falling in between the two extremes. Setting aside the sense of monumentalism around the entire thing -- something with bandleader Greg Jarvis' liner notes both build up and gently undercut with his conversational style -- O is a lovely listen; if it's not a sudden next-level release, it's a case where the basic idea of slow-building swells and cascades back into near-drone calm are handled with aplomb. In a way, the sense of electronic growl and drift, combined with the solo parts of brass instruments and gentle but stately melancholy throughout, don't so much suggest other bands as other bands in extreme moments, like a late-'90s Spiritualized without the vocals and clearer rock focus, running much slower, or a Godspeed You Black Emperor! setting aside the overt politicization and sampling in favor of self-enclosed wash. (Jarvis himself argues in the liner notes that the band sought to create a piece of "absolute' music in a nineteenth century sense, free from specific meaning.") At the same time, it never feels like a return to classical music in whatever dead-hand-of-romanticism sense lingers over the enterprise -- by steering away from overt structure on the one hand, and never losing a sense of forward motion on the other, it could just as easily touch on the electronic and orchestral explorations of jazz by many musicians in the past. Sometimes it all comes down to a note: when a guitar note suddenly chimes, or a new trumpet part begins, the effect can be mesmerizing, an example of simplicity sometimes being all one needs.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 45:39

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick