Moshi Moshi Records, 2019
Review by Kent Manthie
This new, exciting, feelin’ groovy release just out, like, yesterday, Levitation, by Flamingods, is their follow-up to 2016’s full-length Majesty, which followed the Kewali EP.
Flamingods are a four-piece band whose members originally met in sunny Bahrain and now live in the more temperate climate of London. The band was founded by Kamal Rasool and, as of now, consists of Rasool, Charles Prest, Sam Rowe and Karthik Poduval. What makes these guys stand out so well is the brilliant use they make of musical exploration as well as experimentation with a variety of musical instruments and sounds. And, I don’t mean that they incorporate elements of various genres of music but rather infiltrate their songs with essences of various world cultures, such as Asian (Thailand, Nepal, Japan); “Oceania” (Indonesia as well as other Western South Pacific Islands) as well as Middle Eastern and Turkish ideas. What Flamingods have done is they’ve taken bits from these varied cultures and found the most – to them, anyway – pleasing, useful ritual sounds, ceremonial incantations, chants, songs, etc. and then they’ve stripped them down and re-formed into something that works for them
The first single that Flamingods have put out is “Marigold”, which, well, for a single, that is, if it’s meant to be shopped around and, one hopes, played on radio, is going to really stand out amongst the typical commercial fluff one hears whenever one turns on a radio. “Marigold” has a great groove to it; if you listen closely, e.g., with headphones on and turned up loud, you can hear the layered, textured stuff that has been all mixed in to the song.
Another song, which stands out, to me, that is, is “Astral Plane”, an aptly named album. Also, “Peaches” continues on where “Astral Plane” leaves off. What a trip! Also, when you get to “Mantra East” you dive into some Indian Raga-influenced sounds mixed with both fuzzy guitars as well as ripe jamming that eventually coalesces with the raga-sound… But to really get a feel for just how much of a special album this is and again, I must say that Levitation is going to be put into my “Best albums of 2019” list. You really have to get yourself a copy. Oh, and one more song I must mention is the closing tune on Levitation. It’s the title track and happens to be the longest song on here, clocking in at 7:46. It has an ethereal, Eastern mystic flavor to it that soon merges with their penchant for brings things up a couple levels. The usual rock-based instruments on which they can really kill with crackerjack precision are meshed with more traditional Eastern flavored instruments. Lovely. Beauty in musical form, Music that’s not too be missed and not taken too lightly. This isn’t Top 40 crap nor is it “Emo” or “Math Rock” (no formula can easily be plotted over Flamingods’ music.
Flamingods are a breath of fresh air to the indie scene and modern music, in general. They have this sort of “gotta keep moving” vibe to their sound. It is quite refreshing to hear a new indie album that has something both unique to it as well as some familiar vibes which reminded me of of Montreal; similar complex yet refreshing soundscapes. Even so, Flamingods are their own band and as such shouldn’t be put in a box with other bands despite various similarities at times. I’m also pretty sure that Flamingods would like to be judged by their own merits and not by how much they resemble these guys or those. Of course, I’m sure there will be some people out there who, after hearing them will nevertheless have something to say about into which box they fit (“uh, hey, they also have an XYZ vibe or some techniques of 123”), which may have a bit of validity – for radio programmers or music retailers, which, these days are mostly, except for those independent record stores which are still, despite the odds, in business, albeit, many with an online auxiliary. But at the end of the day, Flamingods are a in a class by themselves. Of course, this is only their sophomore full-length effort (or third one if you count the Kewali EP) so let’s hope that things will only get better with Flamingods and that they don’t end up being co-opted and gobbled up by the rotten corporate music machine.
Of course, the best way to really judge just how good a band is or can be is to see them play live and see how they are able to pull off their studio efforts and translate those into a live setting where they can put their audience into a trance and engage them in a mass hypnotic dance-groove-lock. So, keep your ears and eyes open for any mention of Flamingods coming to your town in the near future. I know I would be interested in seeing them at the right club out of curiosity as well with the dual-purpose of being able to write a review of the show simultaneously.
But until that opportunity presents itself all I can do is to imagine the excitement, the rush, the synergy that would abound at a live show and so can you (unless you’ve had the luck to see them yourself).
If you’d like to get a synesthetic glimpse of what their music “looks” like, take a peek at the video for “Paradise Drive”; it is a gorgeous, psychedelic, kaleidoscopic wonder which adds a certain shimmer to the song itself; an animated video with no jump-cuts to shots of the band playing on stage or pictures of any of the members. A lysergic dance journey through a glass colored in day-glo neon pastels. But don’t take my word for it; here, check it out for yourself; just click here: https://youtu.be/T-vZ3Tc3er0
I hope you can dig whence I come. -KM.