The Flowers of Hell – “O”

This album is worth it for the sleeve notes alone: sleeve notes which are in turns inspiring, funny and downright pretentious. I won’t fill my review with them, suffice to say that the idea behind “O” is to create (and I quote), “what the German music press of the 1880s would call ‘absolute music (music with no words and no references to stories or images; music that’s not explicitly about anything – music that simply is.) Yeah. Its working title was ‘business suicide’”.  Golly. And there’s plenty more where that came from.

“O”’s demanding stuff but never inaccessible: very much in the vein of the sounds peddled by Tony Conrad, Rhys Chatham or Lamonte Young. Or the vibe created by T-Dream’s floating opus, Zeit. This is music that works on the rear part of your brain, looking for subliminal links, looking to soothe and open up unlooked for doors rather than reinforce well-trodden paths, championing nuance over direction, and thriving on presenting a paucity of readily accessible information that listeners normally try to pacify themselves with. Essentially its drone music, but a drone (or presence) that has enough plasticity lightness and flexibility to allow the listener some chance to adjusts or create their own space.

There are breathers: (from around 16 minutes in the rich textures subside leaving a doleful violin and trumpet to carry the load, followed by a beautiful flute part that flirts with sounding like Florian’s more reflective flute pieces for early Kraftwerk – a part, moreover, that soothes the listener to somnolence before things begin to slowly build again), but it’s near impossible to treat or indeed write about the music as anything other than an amorphous, organic and quite brilliant whole.

To finish I must return to the world of facts and state that the CD has a DVD side which shows the Flowers in action forget a measly 45 minutes of music of the LP proper, you get around 115 minutes of sounds and sights from various concerts. It’s really all too much to consider.

Highly recommended.