Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra

(Luaka Bop)

Here we have one of the most ambitious projects to cross these ears in a long time. Five years in the making, British electronic producer, DJ and musician Sam Shepherd, better known as Floating Points, enlisted the help of the entire London Symphony Orchestra as well as Pharoah Sanders, one of the greatest shamans in jazz history, to create art for the ages. Promises tears down the walls between the electronic and acoustic worlds; classical, jazz and pop. The synthesis of all of this demonstrates that music — all music — can be distilled to beauty. In “Movement 1,” the mood of this tone poem is distinctly set — calming, dreamlike searching — and when Sanders comes in with the first wail of his tenor, it’s truly breathtaking. He’s powerful and searing, full of wisdom, sorrow and joy. In “Movement 4” we find Sanders vocalizing quietly, communicating more without words than most could in a volume of books. “Movement 5” finds the shaman joined by a crackly Rhodes, and an organ soaring just below his wails with just the right mix of electronica added in to give the piece a coating of ambient angst. Shepherd performed on a dozen keyboards in the making of this piece. In “Movement 6,” the strings come in to soothe the soul with layers and layers of atmospheric bliss and so much detail to take in. The crescendo is just stunning. “Movement 7” and “Movement 8” begin to return the listener back to earth, but not before Shepherd on organ, all guttural and grit, delivers the goods. “Movement 9” brings back the orchestra for a last blast of joy before the coda. Promises is fantastic meditation music for restless minds. It demands to be heard in concert halls around the world. I can’t wait for all of us to have the opportunity to hear that. Until then, a good pair of headphones will do the trick.

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