It's always nice when something amazing by an artist you've never heard of before arrives in your inbox. This was the case when I reviewed Flutes' debut single Auld Archie a few months back. At least when you've listened to an artist previously you have some sort of idea what to expect. Or sometimes you've only heard a friend mention the artist, so you recognise the name when a release appears even if you haven't heard them playing yet. With Flutes, I'd heard nothing. Not a thing. Zilch. So when the Auld Archie came out of nowhere I was dumbstruck. I remember at the time listening for hours to music that was clichéd and jaded and uninspired, and I was getting tired and bored and was ready to give up for the night. Then this appeared. This sprawling, wondrous beast completely blindsided me. I listened to it on repeat for hours. So when I the album appeared a few weeks later, I first listened with a wee bit of trepidation. Could it live up to the potential the single indicated? I needn't have worried...
The album kicks off with the aforementioned Auld Archie, but I've already dressed it in enough superlatives for you to know my opinion. But essentially that high standard is achieved throughout. It's What's Between That Makes Us Happy is a jauntier affair with its picked guitar lines and laid-back trumpet, whereas This Is No Country For Old Men is altogether more brooding, its chiming guitar and sparse drums all held together with a dense, imposing bass lines. A highlight of the album is Dolores, a straight-up rock song which sounds like something Idlewild could've written between the albums 100 Broken Windows and The Remote Part.
Lyrically, singer Godfrey McFall keeps things pretty vague throughout the album, eschewing any apparent narrative in favour of strong imagery and seemingly unrelated sentences placed together. The only real break with this style is This Is A Lift, which details what sounds to be a rather bitter break up. The grandiose nature of the music itself allows the obscurity of McFall's lines to work, beautifully colouring the images created. It's a difficult style to do well, and can alienate the listener if too vague, but Flutes have it nailed.
You get the sense the band have 'crafted' this album, keeping in mind how the whole thing will sound as a finished piece rather than just chucking a load of songs together to make up numbers. There's an fairly dark aesthetic throughout, but not too dark so as to be impenetrable. The whole thing works brilliantly. It is epic. Expansive. Layered. Textured. Imposing but spacious. Varied but coherent. A truly wonderful album.A real triumph.