Joining the Everything Is Noise team just under a year ago was one of my better choices – not just because it is an excellent bunch of people, but I’ve really managed to delve into musical areas that I probably wouldn’t have bothered with in the past. Interestingly though, jazz in all its forms remains a largely untouched genre for me despite the love it has amongst the team. In short, I am probably just not sophisticated enough to appreciate all it can bring – I can only think of one jazz-related release that I have returned to listen to more than once this year (this absolute beauty from Taumel). Despite this, a recent single release with fairly heavy jazz influences really caught my ear recently, enough for me to grab the album off the list for review.
That single was “find, fix, finish” from Chicago three-piece FLOCKS (it probably helped that I heard the radio edit), and it had me hooked immediately. The blend of subtle electronics/synths and more traditional jazz elements in the percussion and piano playing left me wanting more – enough to check out the original edit, which was even better. “find, fix, finish” is lifted direct from You Were Probably Younger Then, the second full-length from FLOCKS and their first on Folded Music. The self-titled debut was a little too jazz-heavy for my unsophisticated ears, though it probably didn’t help that I listened after hearing You Were Probably Younger Then, but this latest release is right up my New Orleans alley.
Album opener “fashion camp” sets things alight early. The aforementioned marriage of percussion and synth is present here again, but accompanied with some of the best bass lines of the year. The melody moves through the instruments as smooth as you like, letting the rhythm section dictate where it will go next. “a thousand videos” follows a similar trend, letting the synths take the jazz chords, with beeps and glitches leading the way. It is one of the tracks that best sums up the feelings the album brings, a weird oxymoronic sense of euphoric calm. At times the synthesisers sound like distant choirs, at other times sounding like something from the future, but at all times seemingly providing exactly what is needed for the track at that exact moment.
“revolve” is one of the shorter pieces on You Were Probably Younger Then, but don’t let that fact fool you into thinking there is little to be found here. “revolve” is one of my favourite tracks, likely because it pulls me back into my ambient safe space, the swirling electronics and harmonics taking things down a notch after a fairly intense opening few tracks. It does more than just the scene for the music that will follow; the sense of calm it evokes is more than welcome at this stage. “held” keeps things fairly serene for the most part, the electric percussion dropping back to its bare minimum for the majority of the track, letting the keys and guitars fight for prominence. Everything gently builds in anticipation of something more frantic to come, yet when it does arrive for the last 2 minutes, it still comes somewhat of a surprise. Louder and more prominent synths join the now familiar percussion, with the soothing electronics from earlier in the track remaining to provide continuity.
Title track “you were probably younger then” is a special beast, again bringing something different to the table from what has come before. The percussion is more sporadic than usual here, providing quick changes of pace and feel throughout the track – you’re never quite sure where this one is going to go next. This piece of music sums up FLOCKS as a project pretty well; you can find a little bit of everything on here, from ambient passages to jazz runs to glitching electronics. The bass playing is excellent throughout, but it is here (along with “fashion camp”) that Stephen Patota’s playing really shines through. “revive” is another of those shorter ambient pieces from the album and again stands out as a firm personal favourite. The arpeggiated phrases jumping across instruments above a bed of soothing swells (soothing for the most part at least) perfectly prepares the ear for a fine closing pair of tracks in “counterfeit” and the already discussed “find, fix, finish” that brought FLOCKS to my attention.
Part of me hopes that FLOCKS have opened a few doors for me with You Were Probably Younger Then into a world of jazz and electronica fusions, perhaps a door into ‘the history of the exact music we are excited about making‘ that FLOCKS allude to in this behind the scenes promo for the album. However, a larger part of me is happy staying in this exact room with a sole album to dip my toes into every once a while. Make sure to swing by when you’re passing through and give You Were Probably Younger Then a chance to broaden your taste buds, too.