Michael Flower - Returning to Knowing Nothing (Self-released CD-R) / The Michael Flower Band - The Michael Flower Band (Manhand/Flowerhouse CD-R)
As part of the excellent Suoni per il Popolo festival that took place here in Montreal last month, I was able to catch the Michael Flower Band not more than a day after Graveyards had played. Unfortunately I didn't get to see much else from the festival since all the good stuff seemed to take place when I was working, but what are you going to do. No way was I gonna pass up a chance to see Mick Flower, much less Mick Flower's band (featuring the likes of Sunburned Hand of the Man's John Moloney and...uh...Mick Flower). Times were bright, and before the show I made sure to scoop up the CD-R issue Mick himself put out of his recent "Return to Knowing Nothing" LP on Qbico and a Michael Flower Band CD-R. All this before they'd even played a note! Needless to say they were great and I became a major league fan of Flower's right off the button, reaffirming my decision to pick up these two documents.
It isn't that I missed out on the Qbico LP issue of "Returning to Knowing Nothing", it's just that the CD-R was 10 bucks cheaper at the show and I was on somewhat of a budget. Besides, it comes really dressed to the nines - pro-printed CD-R hanging out in an oversized "textured" cardboard foldover w/colour silkscreenings on both sides. Can't hardly complain about any of that. And now I can tote it with me wherever I go! So there's that. A lot of the talk around this record drew comparisons to the Theatre of Eternal Music et al; Young, Conrad, Riley, Cale, MacLise, even Pran Nath. It's all beautifully, beautifully true, but not at all in a treading-worn-ground way. Flower grasps the 60's freeness by the horns and rockets it into the 21st century and wayyy beyond. Tracks like "The Window is a River" and the 10-minute scorcher "FFR #1 (For BS)" feature Flower pulling golden throat Nath-style ragas, but doused in a wailing mix of keyboard, flute and guitar (the former) and sitar, shakers, syrupy percussion and horns (the latter). It actually carries a pretty heavy Vibracathedral Orchestra sentiment on these "busier" tracks, despite it being the work of one man alone. "Octave #1" blasts through with ecstatic guitar runs filtered through a hazy Eastern vibe and "If Your Light Goes Out..." is like Edip Akbayram playing along to the endlessly resonating drones from the Dream House. "Antlers and Whiskers" is a thick, electric drone probably making (over)use of the electronic shruti box I saw Flower use at the show, way over the top in sweaty-heaven drone bluster and sensory overload. I can practically feel the incense smoke clogging my nostrils. Best yet (as if I could choose between em) is "3pm 28_08_05" - Flower's guitar strings clanging and resonating like high-tension electricity wires over a tambura-like drone and wet, hand-slapped percussion that manages to straddle the fine line between ominousness and sky-reaching euphoria...I'm willing to settle for the latter, as this whole disc tossed me a ways up into the stratosphere and kept me a float for a solid half-hour, give or take...and made me want to start it all up over n' over again when it was done. Back when I talked about Ashtray Navigations' "Throw Up in the Sky/With Fine Clinking Magnets" LP from the same Qbico batch I said it would take a real heavyweight to dethrone it from being the best of the bunch...well, a challenger appears! This is easily up there for tops of the year so far...but then again, so is the Ashtray record.
The Michael Flower Band is generally but not limited to Michael Flower on guitar and John Moloney on drums, and as far as I can tell this is the first recorded work under the MFB banner. I'm assuming/hoping bigger things are in store, because this CD-R is woefully brief (17 minutes) but most definitely deserves to be heard by a larger audience. Or, at least, fleshed out into a full-on LP and delivered unto the masses. When I saw em, Flower was doing his own guitar improvisations until Moloney joined in and beat the skins to death at which point Flower lost his shit and it was jammed into the red sun, but there's a more laidback approach across these three tracks, and certainly a different sound. On the opening "Mode #2", Moloney lays down a pretty steady course for Flower to generally piss all over, which means that it works great. Moloney (of all people) is the glue here and Flower has tons of space to kick his spindly soloing into the next vortex, taking brief respites to pick at his strings like a chemist determining a precise formula before he reverts once more to an out-and-out attack. On "Balinese Falsehood" (as probably on "Mode #2 as well), they've either multi-tracked a sludgy, guitar loop or are playing along to it pre-recorded, but it dominates the jam with its low-slung, viscous tone. Flower sticks to high-tonal chord choking and Moloney beats out a repetitive rhythm - the whole thing is a little bit like Earth's "Tallahassee" fused with Skullflower's "Exquisite Fucking Boredom" - you know I approve. "C'est Ca!" is a minute of post-jam come-down noise/vocal wasting that, really, is neither here nor there. Even after seeing em play together in the flesh, this still defied my expectations and wound up sounding pretty great, even if it's a bite-sized morsel. Stay tuned though, I'm sure there's more to come from these two.
Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above albums