They say social media and smart phones have ruined our attention spans. As I struggle to get through ‘Flamagra’, I’m wondering if this is actually true. My other excuse is I’m the father of a four month old baby so I’m really tired all the time. Or perhaps it’s just really bloody long.
It’s got 27 tracks
Indeed it could be two albums: one of the collaborations, their big name hooks and pop sensibility. The other the jazzy ramblings of Thundercat et al.; a Brainfeeder/Warp Records supergroup album. Inevitably there’s going to be filler or, as my wife more politely put it, “background music”. There is, without being cheesy, a kind of 60s lounge vibe throughout.
This isn’t for the want of trying though. I’ve not given up after at least ten attempts and I’ll continue once I’ve finished this review. And despite the “background music”, with each attempt it becomes more familiar and the good bits start to stand out.
I don’t have room here in 600 words to review two albums (arguably 27 tracks is three albums) so I’ll try to concentrate on those good bits.
The opening instrumental duo of ‘Heroes’ and ‘Post Requisite’ are relatively short but enjoyable snippets that set the scene for the next hour and a bit of your life, should you manage it in the more than the bitesize chunks that I did. This is before the discombobulated computer game music of ‘Heroes In A Half Shell’ with its up and down scale motif that promises electronic adventures ahead.
Flamagra’s calling card is the frankly ridiculous list of guest appearances which all deserve to be mentioned: George Clinton, Anderson Paak, Little Dragon, Solange, Toro Y Moi, Denzel Curry, David Lynch, Solange, Tierra Whack (no idea), Shabazz Palaces (also no idea but has to be worth a listen on the name alone) and bezzie mate Thundercat. Save for the David Lynch spoken word bit (I think it’s meant to be a Tom Waits kind of thing – I know a lot of people love him, but I’ve never really got it), which seems totally out of place to me, Mr Lotus pulls this off much less smugly than say Ricky Gervais did with Extras.
The first celebrity friend is Anderson Paak, but he never fully realises his potential here. Little Dragon, who, in my book, can do no wrong and who already have serious collab form (see SBTRKT’s ‘Wildfire’ amongst others) come later but not before the most Glastonbury-esque guest appearance of George Clinton (I type this with the TV on in the background as The Killers and Pet Shop Boys/Johnny Marr take to the Pyramid Stage – see Ricky Gervais, above).
The next instrumental section is a good one. ‘Takashi’ is a delightful interlude, redolent of Stevie Wonder’s organ and electric piano sounds. This is followed by another computer game moment in ‘Pilgrim Side Eye’ and the catchy ‘All Spies’ which, along with ‘Say Something’ later on leaves me imagining the plots of the daytime TV shows they provide the themes for.
If you’ve heard and smiled along to Denzel Curry’s ‘Black Balloons’, be prepared to have that smile wiped off your stupid face by ‘Black Balloons Reprise’. ‘Actually Virtual’ further piques my initial interest in Shabazz Palaces. It’s like Outkast riding a flamenco horse. Yes really. Skip ahead and track 23 (stay with me, we’re nearly there) brings out the best of Toro Y Moi. ‘9 Carrots’ is Flamagra’s strongest tune. Soon after is Solange’s moment but being only teased with flashes of ‘Cranes in the sky’ brilliance just doesn’t satisfy.
I could go on but I’ve already exceeded my word count.
So how to summarise ‘Flamagra’. There are too many unnecessary instrumentals and too many wasted chances for talent to shine. This album could be great. But without more focus it’s only good.
Words by James Spearing