Conventional wisdom generally recognises that it is the journey which is important and not necessarily the destination at which we finally arrive. The paths we choose and the tracks we wander along the way do much to shape and colour our experiences of where we have been and our expectations of what is still to come. Travel is a voyage of exploration, discovery and learning; whether we are coming home again or alighting on a place which may eventually become home, the journey taken ensures we are never the same again.
ShadowLines is the delightful and utterly enchanting debut album from 4-piece London based ensemble Flux. The ten tracks deftly capture the creative transitions and captivating thresholds of a band intent on embodying the spaces and exploring the places they have and still continue to travel. It is an intense and quite brilliant mapping, to use their own words, of ‘liminal space’, the expanses which fill the terrain between the known and the unknown and charts, both individually and collectively, their wanderings on the way to discovering a sense of who they are and where home may finally be found.
The music is gently and delicately alluring, intricately beautiful and refreshingly hopeful. There is a tangible sense of playful wonderment in the breadth and depth of the musical vision being presented which perfectly captures and frames the accumulated experiences and eclectic influences of the roads they have taken and people they have encountered. The album openly embraces you with an expansive and soulful atmosphere which is unashamedly joyful; there is an uplifting celebration of life, of spirit, of diversity in the elegant melodies, the graceful vocals, the vibrant and energetic rhythms which weave and blend to mesmerise, bewitch, captivate and thrill.
There are certainly nods in what you hear to musical influences which originate from all over the world, drawing on regional forms of folk, indie, even urban sounds and styles of playing, all the time infused with strong cultural textures supplied by European and Indian classical traditions and carrying faint echoes from South America and Asia. Yet the story being told is uniquely theirs as they probe the boundaries of their emerging sense of identity. Each track is a powerful signpost and vivid testament to the impressive musical vistas being affectionately shaped and created as they move forward in their journey.
What is therefore surprising is that the energy, vitality and creative vision of the music is primarily driven by the remarkable virtuosity of four multi-instrumental musicians playing nothing more than piano, guitar, violin, bansuri, Cajon and percussion. Although these are supplemented in places by a string ensemble, double bass and drums, the core which fashions the distinctive and charmingly addictive Flux sound emerges from the intelligent, passionate and compelling interactions of these instruments alone, along with the persons who play them.
Along the way they are joined by equally outstanding vocal contributions from Sabiyha Rasheed (Sundown, Track 2) and Tanya Wells (Tears of Dust, Track 5; Simple Joys, Track 8). These exceptional collaborations bring emotional insight and heart-felt resonance to the quality of the music. Lyrical perceptiveness is embodied and brought to life in voices that are beautiful, enthralling and, alongside the absorbing instrumental playing, exert an almost companionable hold which leaves you genuinely moved.
Indeed, what is perhaps most striking about the album is the gently amiable and affable way it sneaks up on you. What you will not be prepared for, mainly because you simply don’t notice it happening, is to be so totally caught up and engrossed in what you are hearing that you really do forget yourself. I have lost count of the number of times I have had this album playing whilst doing other things (including writing this review!), and the many times I have found the music finished and myself just sitting here, completely enrapt. Somewhere along the way – and I honestly cannot put my finger on where – I appear to have just stopped what I was doing and let it take me. There is something truly special about music which can do that.
ShadowLines is a wonderful album which is gracious, warm and vibrant in spirit. It is all the more remarkable for being a debut release. I earnestly hope the band will continue their playful and reflective explorations in the same spirit of open receptiveness, inquisitiveness and hope. I am eagerly looking forward to hearing where the journey takes them next.
This review first appeared for The Progressive Aspect
Night Tide – 4.33
Horizon – 3.35
Sundown feat. Sabiyha – 3.42
ShadowLines – 5.31
Tears of Dust feat. Tanya Wells – 4.42
Closer – 2.45
String Theory – 4.07
Simple Joys feat. Tanya Wells – 2.50
Red Shift – 3.09
Hush – 3.46
Michael Goodey – Piano, Guitar, backing vocals
Preetha Narayanan – Violin, vocals
Shammi Pithia – Bansuri, Cajon, Piano
Suroj Sureshbabu – Guitars, Percussion
Format: digital download, physical release.
24th June 2016