Flowers and Sea Creatures: Test Pressing EP
The lines between Buzzin' Fly and its co-label Strange Feeling continue to blur with the release of Flowers and Sea Creatures' Test Pressing EP, given that its pop content would seem to be a more natural fit for Strange Feeling than Ben Watt's clubby Buzzin' Fly imprint. No matter: the EP offers more than than its fair share of satisfactions, thanks to the tracks' blend of Graham Baxter's suave crooning and Kosta Megalos's lush keyboards. To flesh out the project, Watt brought Ewan Pearson and The Revenge aboard in co-producing roles, with the former tackling “At Night,” the latter “International,” and the group itself “Sonic.” With such different personalities involved, it doesn't wholly surprise that the material at times sounds like bifurcated halves stitched together, with the breezy vocal style of Baxter on one side and sleek, programmed dance beats on the other. That contrast is particularly audible during “International,” though that in itself doesn't militate against the alluring sensuality that's so fundamental to the song's appeal.
“At Night” opts for melancholy languor more than jacked-up intensity, with Baxter's entranced voice lightly floating atop an equally entrancing synth-pop base. With the lead vocal banished, the dub version of the track shifts the focus to a now-heavier Balearic groove and swirls of vocal harmonies that drift away like so much cigarette smoke. Nothing against Baxter's vocal in the original, but I'm more drawn to the instrumental treatment, largely because its slinky beats are so silkily and seductively smooth. The strengths of his singing are nicely showcased during the acoustic introduction to “Sonic” and continue to be heard when presented in multi-tracked form alongside a swaying electronic-infused backing. The EP's self-produced track might, in fact, be the most satisfying one in the manner by which it so deftly fuses its disparate acoustic and electronic elements.
Watt's characterization of the Montreal duo's sound (though Baxter was born in Belfast and Kostas in Athens, the two individually gravitated to in la belle province where they met and began writing together) as “Kraftwerk collaborating with Crosby, Stills, and Nash” is therefore pretty much on point. As for influences, Baxter cites Chet Baker—not for his trumpet playing but for his equally distinctive vocal style—and Kosta lists Giorgio Moroder and The Art Of Noise—telling choices in both cases considering the degree to which traces of such artists can be detected in Flowers and Sea Creatures' sound.