Might there be a better time to sit down and listen to an album whose title evokes poet Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal
, has track titles such as "Lament" and "Dead Leaf" and a PR pitch that talks about the "darker electronic side" of its composer's music, and comes with sleeve art redolent of a dystopian near-future? You might think so. But actually, April 2020 is as good a time as any, because far from being a bummer, Devil's Flower
is engaging, beautifully crafted, uplifting stuff.
The album is the conception of Cardiff-based producer Deri Roberts
of Slowly Rolling Camera
, which since 2013 has released four well-received albums of electronica-infused future jazz on Britain's Edition label. Roberts began his career as a sound designer and soundtrack composer, and Devil's Flower
is an eight-piece suite that meshes that background with spacey jazz and electronica.
There is a hefty jazz strand running through Devil's Flower
, but it is not a jazz album, or at least one that most people would recognise as such. Roberts is clearly a fan of slow-burning drone music, toothe final track is dedicated to La Monte Young
but Devil's Flower
is not a drone album either. And while electronica is a core feature, nor is it an ambient album: there is too much substance and far too much unfolding for that. Brian Eno
, who should know, defined ambient as "music that does not demand the listener's attention, but which rewards that attention if it is given." Devil's Flower
, however, does, politely but insistently, demand your attention.
Roberts is the central figure here, playing trombone and synths as well as composing and producing. He is supported by a terrific group of musicians. Saxophonist, bass clarinetist and flautist Ben Waghorn
, whose c.v. includes trip hoppers Portishead
, who are based just across the River Severn estuary from Cardiff, in Bristol, is a brightly shining presence (or perhaps dark star), as is keyboard player Mark Sambell
. Electric bassist and Moog player Jon Goode
and drummer Elliot Bennett
keep everything grounded.
It all goes to show that if you cannot judge a book by its cover, neither can you so judge an album.
Devil’s Flower; Duke’s Rhodes; Dead Leaf; Lament; Amen For A Brother; Piano Verb; The Build; Ode To LaMonte.