As Levitation, Flamingods‘ fourth album, springs into life you might be forgiven for thinking something significant has changed.
Sun (2012), Hyperborea (2014), and Majesty (2016) all seem to materialise out of a musical left-field, the incarnation of a cultural diaspora.
As ‘Paradise Drive’ opens proceedings it does so in far bolder, more recognisable lettering. The bass rumbles. A cowbell dongs. A melody twinkles in a vaguely psychedelic manner. Everything’s on the move very quickly, pulled along by groove and tempo and a neon vibrancy.
Which leaves you wondering if they maybe took accusations of wanton avant-garde-ism to heart following the release of Majesty.
That’s perhaps a little unfair. ‘Paradise Drive’ is the beginning of a volley of tracks that tug you along with wonderful and irresistible rhythms. They surround you in warm sonic textures, and could even be deemed catchy.
They’re the sort of songs any decent indie band would kill to produce, even more so with a festival season making its way over the horizon. If ‘Marigold’ gets played a lot this summer, it will be a good summer.
But, well we already know Flamingods have far more in their locker than a few good songs to soundtrack the season. They’re immersive, transcendent at moments. They offer up an experience, not just a sound. Music, not just songs.
So when the rattling urgency of ‘Astral Plane’ gives way to the meandering synths and booming bass of ‘Peaches’, the album seems to spread its arms out wide and breathe a little deeper. It becomes rhythmically mesmeric and starts to leave great, dazzling lacunas of instrumentation for the listener to drift through.
And this continues through the brevity of ‘Moonshine On Water’ and the jaunty pop-psyche synthesis of ‘Olympia’ into the moody soft open of ‘Club Coco’. Across the album’s middle movements the listener’s given the chance to settle in and feel at home. To wiggle the proverbial toes in a pair of new shoes and enjoy a familiar comfort.
But the closing triumvirate of ‘Mantra East’, ‘Nizwa’ and ‘Levitation’ sees the band at their enveloping best. The stretch soundscapes into towering, swaying monoliths. Having been primed by the poppy urgency of the album’s opening and reassured by the genial broad strokes its middle portion is painted with, Levitation closes with Flamingods finding their stride not just with regards to this record, but as a band.
Levitation scoops up the love of worldly disco and funk and packages it alongside something more widely digestible. And it does so not as a compromise, but as a compound. Flamingods don’t forego themselves in making something more consumable, they enhance themselves.