Belgium and Ethiopia are two countries that you wouldn’t necessarily mention in the same sentence on a regular basis. Or even on an irregular basis.
However, when you have a band that hails from the former which takes influence and inspiration from the latter, you have one such instance.
Black Flower’s second album Artifacts is nine instrumental songs of Ethiopian-tinged jazz. Yep, jazz. The overarching public perception of jazz is one of pretentious over indulgence. If Artifacts is the only jazz album you listen to this year, your individual inclination will change.
Nathan Daems is the central figure of Black Flowers as the composer, saxophonist and flutist, and he is ably aided and abetted by Jan Birdsong, Simon Segers, Filip Vandebril and Wouter Haest on the cornet, drums, bass and keys respectively.
Opening Artifacts is Bones, and straight from the off the Ethiopian vibe is prevalent. The initial bars of Daems’ flute transport you to a kaleidoscopic place with tribal beats adding to the auditory illusion.
Alexandria has a groove so deep you’ll drown in it. It’s smooth and trippy at the same time, so enchanting is the mastery that Black Flowers has over their instruments. In another field they’d be lauded as masters of their craft.
High Upon The Mountain High Upon The Hill drifts on a feathery light bass that is further lifted by the breeziest of saxophones.
Lunar Eclipse makes even more sense with its accompanying video, which uses archive clips including those of space exploration and natural history. It’s probably the most ‘jazzy’ of all the tracks here, but like the preceding eight it’s tight, thematically consistent, and utterly mesmerising.
The title track is the entire album in a microcsom; masterful manipulation of instruments, all coming together to create something wonderful. And, just like the rest of the album, you can dance to it. I’m not much of a dancer myself, but if I am driven to get out of my seat even as I type, then I’m sure you will find yourself in a similar situation.
Clocking in at around 45 minutes, the length is perfect. Whether you like it, you’ll certainly appreciate the fact that there is a cracking editor inside of Daems. No song goes on for too long, no idea stretched to insufferability. A contender already for AOTY.
Artifacts by Black Flowers was released on February 3rd by Sdban Ultra.