On the face of it Wales might seem an unlikely home for London/Bahrain ethno-popsters Flamingods, who release their second album Hyperborea on Cardiff DIY label Shape. Musically, it’s about as culturally diverse as it gets, requiring a degree in anthropology just to identify some of the weird and wonderful instruments used. However, in Islet’s Mark Thomas (who runs Shape) it seems they have found a kindred spirit, sharing as they do in his penchant for all things percussion. A bold step forward from debut album Sun, Hyperborea marries wave upon wave of percussion with blissful world music vibes picked up on travels (both physical and spiritual) to India, Africa and the Middle East.
With the band originating in Bahrain as the bedroom project of Kamal Rasool in late 2009, they have since relocated to London, expanded to a quintet, performed semi-legendary communal chalet jams at various ATP festivals and released debut album Sun on Art Is Hard. An intriguing psychedelic record that saw the band banging away on anything they could lay their hands on, Sun acted as a refreshing reminder of what indie music could be. Ultimately though, it promised more in glimpses than it did as a whole. With their second album however, Flamingods issue a more complete and convincing statement.
With the title referring to a mythical land of eternal sunshine, Hyperborea plays like a sonic odyssey; a quick fire tour of the globe, musical/geographical barriers collapsing and all sounds melting into one. Utilizing a host of instruments acquired from time spent in Tanzania, Nepal and the Amazon, Flamingods scour the globe plucking influences from wherever they see fit, the result being a wonderfully rootless record. Hypnagogic rhythms resurrect those dead ATP jams, while field recordings and sound collage lend a communal and spontaneous feel. It’s amazing considering that the band were not together during recording with visa laws forcing Kamal back out of the country. With audio files sent back and forth, soaking up a little more input each time, ideas have been pushed to their limit and influences to saturation point.
Opening track ‘Vimana’ sounds like a call to prayer, conjuring up images of Panda Bear rambling through the Himalayas (the band adopt a similarly unorthodox approach to playing drums) only to be side-tracked along the way and tempted into a series of transcendental jams. Ponytail pop up from time to time, as does the scuzzy mysticism of Sun City Girls, while ‘Himiko’ sounds like a lost Sung Tongs track recorded live in a Buddhist temple. All bongos and Bollywood style funk, ‘Market Dancer’ reveals a sort of sun-stroked euphoria while the title track guides you through spice markets and souks upon the irresistible groove of a Turkish Zither.
For an album of such rhythmical richness though it’s a surprisingly languorous affair, culminating in the ‘Mother Hen’– ‘Lake Yaylura’–‘Trek Mountiain Heck’ triptych: Idyllic finger picking breezes into mirage like exotica and out the other side, finding what sounds like The Avalanches offering their top tips on Brazilian piranha fishing. Like the album as a whole these are tracks to submit to totally, taking you to a place far away beyond the confines of derivative guitar music. Bold, blissful and…well… really good fun.