Jeremy Flower has 30 Facebook page likes. He has released one of the best albums I have ever heard, just a couple of months ago. The kind of record I will carry in my heart until it beats no more. I don’t presume my tastes are in any way a yardstick for public opinion. All I’m saying is, sometimes you just know when something is undoubtedly meaningful, and this is one of those records. If ever there’s been an opportunity to shed some light on a hidden gem, this is it.
RELEASE DATE: 08 January 2016 LABEL: Self-released
I’ll admit I am biased on my opinion of “The Real Me” – after all, it does feature two of my favorite musicians: Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi (of Rabbit Rabbit Radio). However, there is enough objectivity to be salvaged here, as Jeremy Flower’s album is imbued with great cohesion and a distinctive style which does not feel like a retread of his partners’ work in the least. This is a record animated by a focused concept, explored with amazing poetry and musicianship, and taken to exhaustive emotional depths. “The Real Me” is about aging, about the slow dissolution we’re all going through, more or less unwittingly, about the encouraging nucleus of truth in the middle of a heartbreaking illusion of wisdom.
While definitely composed with a lot of stylistic diversity, I would not call this an eclectic album. The internal gravity of its concept is so mercilessly strong that it fuses all of the different aesthetic elements into something new, that feels homogeneous and widely textured at the same time, a new (al)chemical element which fascinates and prompts a furious loop of exploration. Each new listen unveils a new property, each passage seems to open fractals of layers and perspectives. This is an album that loves your mind and wants to explore every twist and turn on your brain’s surface. It’s an album with a thirst for knowledge, inquisitive and bold, yet respectful enough to prefer engaging in conversation rather than simply talking at you.
Even its name alludes to this slightly unsettling, sentient quality – it’s not only that the album is brutally honest both in music and in lyrics, it’s that the ensemble comes together like a musical Golem, something with nascent free will. Just as a friend can choose to knock on your door unannounced, so this album might choose to have you play it, and you’ll wonder why, and be delighted, or frustrated, or exhausted. “The Real Me” isn’t a thing to put on the shelf or drop away in your digital music collection. It is the beginning of a relationship.
And speaking of ensembles – its distinctive character, the multifaceted skin and the blood vessels irrigating the whole gorgeous affair, these all stem from the fantastic way Jeremy Flower uses his ensemble of musicians to craft this utter masterpiece. Carla Kihlstedt’s unique violin sonority is embraced by cellos, violas, flutes and piccolos, saxophones, clarinets, French horns and trombones, glorious piano passages, all twining around the solid electric guitar, bass and drum work provided by Jeremy Flower, John Evans and Matthias Bossi respectively. The orchestrating work is very serious, and very complicated, perfectly injected into an apparently simple rock framework and thus elevating it to a completely new level.
Just listen to “The Loneliest Number”, for example, and its playful, cheeky superimposition of two seemingly incompatible rhythms into a delirious syncopation, a mindblowing dialogue between tropes: the classical waltz and the alternative-rock countering clap. It’s breathtaking to me, because the rhythm is completely supercharged by the textures of the instruments, perfectly chosen for the task. This is a very serious game, the kind that is apt to entrance and possess you once it gets its foot in the door, the kind of music the genius Doctor Victor Frankenstein would create – a terrific blend of organic and artificial, taking on a life of its own.
“The Real Me” deserves praise, of course, but more than anything, it deserves to be listened to. It is fearless, challenging, it engages the soul and the mind, and it is genuinely unique. If you’re around Moers, Germany, on the 14th of May, I urge you to go to the Moers Festival and hear it performed live. It’s truly a rare and extraordinary opportunity, well-worth grabbing. If not, no matter. “The Real Me” travels very well through speakers, headphones and hearts. Enjoy!