Not strictly classical, jazz or ambient electronica, this one-track, nine-movement album embodies the highest, most etiolated aspects of all three disciplines. British artist Sam “Floating Points” Shepherd is the anchor here, an electronic free thinker with a neuroscience doctorate. He supplies recurring leitmotifs and Promises’s sense of gossamer, largely peaceable inquiry. Jazz legend Pharoah Sanders should need no introduction; in his first recordings for more than 10 years, the saxophonist mostly holds off the free skronk of some of his most famous recordings in favour of his other mode: deeply felt spiritual jazz interventions. (Sanders’s wordless vocals also add to the promise of Promises.) Halfway through, the forward-thinking London Symphony Orchestra strings turn up and the dappled otherworldliness enters a more cinematic and canonical phase, but hardly to the detriment of the piece overall, instead adding depth and weight. There is room here too for a highly sophisticated iteration of cosmic psychedelia, for drones and tiny rustles, for electronic birdsong and the audible thud of fingers on keys as the mood swings from succour to awe and back again many times. Recorded over the course of five years, this extraordinary collaboration deserves excellent speakers and a soft couch to catch the swooning listener.
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, LSO: Promises review – extraordinary
Five years in the making, this breathtaking album transcends the genres each of its three collaborators bring to the table
Kitty Empire is the Observer's pop critic. She has written for NME and occasionally crops up on Radio 4, 5Live, BBC 6Music, and has appeared on BBC2's The Culture Show and Newsnight Review. @kittyempire666