Review Summary: A modern classic, probably.
Featuring eclectic, electronic aficionado Floating Points (a.k.a Sam Shepherd), sax legend Pharoah Sanders and a goddamn
garrison of classical virtuosos (known to their friends and family as the London Symphony Orchestra), it’s unsurprising that Promises
is rather difficult to pigeonhole. The single-track, nine movement epic
winds its way up and down the musical spectrum, splattering the canvas with the warm pinks of free jazz, calm blues of ambient and urgent purples of a full blown symphony as it bursts
in floral fireworks
. It’s a challenging album to describe - not just because I don’t want to spoil the journey for those who have yet to take it, or because those loose genre terms don’t really do Promises
justice - but also due to the sheer breadth of the emotional territory covered by the collective. The group flit with ease from melancholy to elation (“Movement 6”), desperation to contemplation (“Movement 1”) and giddy nervousness to nervous giddiness (“Movement 4”), somehow covering more ground than most bands manage to trudge across in a lifetime.
Equally impressive is how the LP never becomes overburdened by the weight of its many interlinking components, surely a testament to the calibre of the musicians involved. The fabric of Promises
remains loose and breathable no matter how much is going on, the group’s various members rubbing elbows without falling over one another. Therein lies the project’s emotional potency, for each element of Promises
exists solely to serve the greater whole, individualistic ego and artistic bravado removed from the equation. Enough space is left for the swelling of synths and/or brass and/or strings to shine in turn, such that they’re able to sucker punch you right in the feels
as and when required. It’s because of this compositional patience and restraint that, when all the pieces finally
slot together during the closing moments of “Movement 7”, the resultant feeling of joy that (I guarantee) bubbles up within your chest is nothing short of magical
Make no mistake, the payoff that Promises
promises is by no means immediate. This is music to savour with eyes closed in a dark room, headphones on and all other distractions firmly yeeted
from sight. Its nearest reference points are not other jazz/classical/ambient projects, but rather the likes of Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock
and Fishmans’ Long Season
: similarly subtle, supple, spiritual albums that feel like actual
physical places in which to sit and reside and breathe
and just take it all in. It’s music at its most transportive and experiential - to converse and to live and to dream with - such that both words and ratings fail to really
articulate what makes it special. I guess you’re just going to have to find that out for yourself.