The Flashbulb: Réunion

Benn Jordan's Flashbulb release Réunion (his third full-length for Sublight following Kirlian Selections and 2004's Red Extensions of Me) could be deemed ridiculously eclectic if it weren't so damned accomplished and, more often than not, incredible. Instrumental hip-hop, classical, fusion, folk, funk—Jordan takes on all genre comers on the album's seventeen tracks and, if that weren't impressive enough, does it all without the aid of any computer-related production. It's not an entirely solo affair, however, as Jordan receives invaluable contributions from Greg Hirte whose violin elevates a good number of pieces (his graceful, singing tone on “Interior, So” is particularly beautiful).

In truth, the 50-minute album is so strong it's hard to know where to begin. Let's start with the two lovely piano pieces: “My Summer Fan,” a delicate overture, and “Summertime (Dark),” an interlude that exudes the elegant musicality of a Bill Evans. An Eastern flavour emerges in a couple of songs too: “Sangari 7,” Indian-influenced folk-fusion with Hirte's playing couched in strings and background drone, and “God is Speaking,” where Jordan merges sitar and melismatic singing with beautiful melancholy themes and a soulful vibe. The album's best tracks cast a warm hip-hop spell that verges on irresistible. Deep stunners like “Oaklawn UFO,” “Interior, So,” and “Addict Swelling”—dreamy downtempo hip-hop sweetened with snare splatter, subtle turntable effects, and strings—showcase his talents marvelously. Entrancing, too, are the stately folk-waltz “Alice's Garden” and the elegiac “Going Brown Again” where opening and closing sections of minimal hip-hop funk bookend a central episode of intense drumming and lead bass.

There is a questionable call or two—two otherwise appealing songs are marred by the 'plastic' sound of vocodered singing, drumming on “Friends Under Coils” succumbs to fusion excess (the track even includes acoustic guitar picking reminiscent of John McLaughlin), and there's an occasional over-the-top guitar part (the solo in “French Pissing”)—but, those moments being few, Réunion impresses as an oft-embarrassment of instrumental riches.

November 2005