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Week 570: “Movement 1” by Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders

It feels wrong to feature only one movement from Promises.

The new LP from cerebral electronic artist Floating Points and underrated jazz legend Pharoah Sanders, isn’t a collection of songs but rather a single 46-minute track. It’s split into movements, yes, but those movements come and go like life stages; by the time you realize there’s been a change, you’re already well into the next one.

It’s really a remarkable piece of work, engaging and mesmerizing despite its slow pace. The whole thing is held together by a repeating seven-note sequence whose first few notes vary ever so slightly to provide a hint of chord changes, and the mirage-like appearance of momentum: it feels at any moment like the whole thing could open up…and yet, it doesn’t quite get there.

The only thing on this blog that I can compare Promises to is the album by Camille that is anchored by a single sustained note, but that is very much a pop record. A high-concept pop record perhaps, but a pop record nonetheless. Each track on Camille’s album stands alone, like a short story in a thematically consistent anthology.

Listening to just one movement of Promises is a bit like reading one chapter of a novel whose full plot begs your attention.

So here, if you’ll forgive me for tearing out a chapter from a book that definitely deserves a full read, is the opening movement of maybe the most engrossing, magnetic album released so far this year.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. Early on, in the nearly-but-not-quite-silent spaces between the seven-note sequence, tiny little instrument noises can be heard.

2. Pharoah Sanders’ playing is part after-hours jazz club, part “Last Post,” part whispered secret.

3. Other instruments – the strings at 3:15, for example – enter so subtly you can barely feel them enter the room.

Recommended listening activity:

Turning off all the lights in your room very suddenly, and watching everything fade back in slowly as your eyes adjust.

Buy it here.

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Week 570: “Movement 1” by Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders


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