Thursday, September 21, 2017

Music Review: FLOW

FLOW to perform first concert in NYC!

It isn’t often that the New Age genre finds itself harboring such an intense group as FLOW. The enormous talents of Will Ackerman, Fiona Joy, Lawrence Blatt and Jeff Oster have joined forces to give us an album of unrivaled beauty.  Each musician brings passion for their instruments and years of dedication to their craft into this album, manifesting a creative energy so strong that it resonates throughout every note. Nothing is wasted. Originally a project started by Lawrence Blatt, FLOW came together when he invited pianist Fiona Joy and composer Jeff Oster to collaborate with him at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road Studios in Vermont. It wasn’t long, however, until Will became far more than just a producer, and an integral contributor to the project as detailed in NewAgeMusicGuide.

In Vermont (l. to r.): Will Ackerman, Lawrence Blatt, Fiona Joy, Jeff Oster are FLOW.

This writer prefers to sample an album as opposed to sharing the full-course, so I'll highlight three tracks and "highly-recommend* that you discover all the rest. "Arrival" is clearly the best place to start this 11-song eponymous project, an opener that is equal parts welcoming, celebratory and triumphant. Fiona Joy's deft piano touch teases the listener into the track and builds, as does Jeff’s moody horn; Lawrence and Will join in on guitar, with percussion adding a sense of groovy momentum to FLOW’s introductory track.  The composition and sequencing of this song is perfect. Something that starts off gently swells into a full-blown showcase of the wonderful talent at hand, a promise of the musical adventures still to be heard.

In contrast to the opening track, the title song “Flow” focuses more on guitar and horns, with a more subtle piano influence. The gentle plucking of the guitar is perfectly accentuated by Fiona’s signature ethereal, wordless vocals reminiscent of Julee Cruise (Twin Peaks). The track slows for a few moments here and there to allow the guitar to shine. Ackerman’s creative direction emerges at times like these, with a “less is more” approach to guiding the record, particularly in this song. The little breaks throughout leave the listener "sonic windows" to soak in the mood that is being set.

Wrapping up the album, “For Rosita and Giovanni” is another complex and intimately-composed piece. Inspired by Will's trip to the Amalfi Coast of Italy, it awakens many human emotions within the listener. Feelings ranging from joy to melancholy, and reflection to gratitude can be felt within the four minutes and eighteen seconds of this song.  The guitar strums gently as Fiona Joy’s piano swoops in to compliment it.  Oster’s horn soars mournfully above the tender melodies, painting a poignant portrait of an unforgettable couple.

It's worth mentioning that the album also benefits from musical performances by Guest Artists like Marc Shulman, Tony Levin, Jeff Haynes, Sam Bevan, Eugene Friesen, and Tom Eaton, who also mixes, masters, and produces alongside Will. The album is being released on Lawrence's LMB Music label, available at all major music retailers; pre-orders are happening now.

The eponymous debut album.
FLOW is a dynamic project that came together after years of friendship and mutual artistic admiration, as reflected in their preview video and the project's whimsical cover art. One may have expected a more ethereal presentation from these New Age stars, but Oster's doodling captures the true spirit of the collaboration: good friends simply playing together and making music...and, really, what is more "zen" than that? Overall, the project is understated, sophisticated and incredibly clean. Without a doubt, Fiona, Lawrence, Jeff, and Will are taking New Age to a higher level as FLOW.

Catch FLOW's new release celebration concert at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall on October 6, 2017; to buy tickets through Carnegie's website, click here.

TIP: Enjoy a preview of "Free Ascent" on Billboard Magazine's website.
- Samantha Garcia, for BEING

FLOW debuted at #1 on the ZMR Charts in August!