Flowing into new ideas
Much of the electronic music group Above and Beyond’s popular discography is unrecognizable to their new album Flow State. And the trio’s breakout debut project Tri State is no different. The project breathed new life into the mainstream trance formula in 2006 and brought a cohesive and tasteful approach to a genre usually relegated to singles and remixes. This more nuanced approach to EDM and trance, influenced by the late ’90s British electronic music allowed them to stand out and generate momentum through the mid-2000s. Much of what was to come after Tri State was a mixed bag of remixes and collaborations, usually missing the care and cohesiveness that made their debut so successful. With Flow State, the Above & Beyond regroups around a central idea and creates an emotional and thought-provoking album that stands out from much of their output.
The opener “Great Falls” is a layered buildup of synth pads and the occasional touch of melodic keys and atmosphere. This short track sets the tone of the record, a progressive electronic ambiance, that hints at a sometimes somber yet hopeful tone of relaxed progression. “Great Falls’’ seamlessly flows into “Night Light”, this track is extremely subtle, the light hum of background noise and the echoes of the past track fade and build into “Don’t Leave”. Pianos slowly come in, choral hums ebb and flow across atmospheric pads.
Like one long track Flow State comes and goes like the tides, building up emotion and intention and then fading back out, almost as a palette cleanser for the next movement. “Homecoming” hums along with plucky percussive synth tones and trance-inducing bright arpeggios. These sounds fade into the somber and slow piano chords of “Strength from Inside”. The tracklist seems to build and build, and each track gets progressively more intricate and less ambient. These subtle long term evolutions create one long track of energy flux and transformation, very different from the mainstream trace hits synonymous with the group.
Flow State is new territory for Above & Beyond which can be seen as one long ambient record, constantly morphing into something new. And not unlike their breakout album, Flow State is a project that stays with one main idea and sticks the landing. Showing that the group is growing and making music that won’t make huge numbers or get millions of streams but will create new fans and newfound respect in electronic music circles.