“I’m on a ship. In the ocean. Bears around smoking cigars. The bears are singing, ‘we have the music. We have what you’re looking for’.”
In Pharoah Sanders’ dream, his five-year-in-the-making album sounds mighty different to what you might expect from cigar-smoking bears in the middle of the Atlantic. ‘Promises’, a 46-minute soundscape in collaboration with British producer Floating Points claims their right to experimental pioneering.
Since their inaugural pitch for the album back in 2015, a 75-year-old Sanders would be asked to create something completely otherworldly from his usual saxophonist comfortability. It was this that would lead to the pair’s most eclectic piece of work to date.
‘Promises’ melds the vastly different worlds of Sanders’ ecstatic jazz and electronic producer Sam Shepherd's intense yet ambient synths with the strings of The London Symphony Orchestra to create a one-track album in nine movements. – Both artists’ signature sounds find a way to layer atop one another throughout this near hour-long record, each totally separate on sonic levels, yet form the most cohesive and organic piece of work which is claimed to be at its most powerful when listened to in one sitting.
“It sounds like two musicians who are trying to guide each other,”, Shepherd claims, and in some way, completely justifies the adverse audiovisual chaos. “We’re always looking for music that can take us someplace higher”. – In a symphonic journey, ‘Promises’ often dips into moments of pure ambience, spatterings of jazz keys and enormous ceremonial strings which at times slope off and disappear into silence, giving the listener a mindful break before stammering into the next movement.
Elsewhere on the album, the pair give a reminiscent taste of science-fiction soundtracks, 2001: A Space Odyssey and its space opera counterparts with much more meditative, yet ominous qualities.
‘Promises’ is five years' worth of experimental soundscaping condensed into one mind-boggling harmonic journey. A highly accomplished piece of music, Pharoah Sanders and Floating Points both excel in their newfound exploratory duo with a piece of work which will go down in jazz-cross- electronic-cross-classical history.
Words: Gemma Ross
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