Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, and The London Symphony Orchestra: Promises (Luaka Bop) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, and The London Symphony Orchestra


Luaka Bop

Apr 02, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

After a run of releases that blur lines between electronic, minimalism, and psychedelic rock, it’s not surprising that Floating Points’ new venture is a 46-minute single piece of neo-classical-jazz minimalism. What’s perhaps more surprising is the fact that this album is performed in full not just with the London Symphony Orchestra, but also led by free-jazz legend Pharoah Sanders. Despite these players’ histories in creating abstract noise, Promises is one of the most unexpectedly quiet and beautiful albums of the year so far. It utilizes the sheer magnitude of its stars’ talent while showing a magnificent mastery of restraint.

Split up into nine movements, the entirety of Promises ebbs and swells over a repeating seven-note motif, sometimes played on a muted piano, other times with a multitude of twinkly sounds. As this figure modulates through a wistful and mysterious chord progression, Sanders and his beautifully expressive, long tenor notes emerge as the star of the performance. At different points in the runtime, other players and sounds seem to attempt to imitate his iconic sax tone —Shepherd’s synths in Movements 3 and 7, the Orchestra’s strings during a particularly sweeping Movement 6, and even Sanders’ own hums and wordless vocals in Movements 3 and 4. His status as an elder statesman of spiritual jazz makes one wonder whether the whole album’s arrangement sprung out of an attempt to respectfully soundtrack a pure instance of Pharoah Sanders’ uninterrupted, sublime horn playing.

In reality, all players involved deserve extra credit for the creation of Promises. Floating Points mastermind Sam Shepherd’s composition is perfectly executed by the LSO and Sanders, particularly in the aforementioned drama of Movements 6 and 7. Perhaps those looking for banging beats such as those on Floating Points’ 2019 release Crush will be disappointed, but anyone willing to listen patiently will feel the curious spell of this composition take effect. It’s 2021’s finest collaboration, and one of the year’s best albums so far. (www.listentopromises.com)

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