There’s something doubly poetic about the term Flower of Sulphur: on one hand, there’s the striking association between sulphur as integral to certain repellent smells and a flower, and on the other hand, there’s the chemical meaning, which refers to a fine powder obtained through two particular processes, sublimation and deposition. This “purest part of sulphur” (according to an 18th century dictionary, the oldest reference I was able to find) is interesting not only because of its naturalistic connotations but also because its form requires a chemical jump from a solid state to a gaseous one (sublimation) or the other way around (deposition), without ever passing through a liquid phase. The ‘flower’ comes to be an essence whose purity cannot be dissociated from its beauty, but the ‘sulphur’ from which it blooms points towards the brimstone of a fiery landscape of damnation. YoshimiO, Susie Ibarra, and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe craft here a series of tracks whose near-chemical names (“Aaa”, “Bbb”, “Ccc”, and “Ddd”) swing from one mood to another, burning through each musician’s styles until a new form is reached.
The volcanic activity from which these flowers spring is Aubrey Lowe’s electronic manipulations, turning YoshimiO’s yelps and shouts into ambient noises, highlighting the subtlest echoes of Ibarra’s free-jazzing percussions, taking care of an elemental fusion that swirls with psychedelic qualities at the same time it keeps each one of those elements separate in order for us to clearly hear how the flowers open and reach towards the stones around them. The atomism of the album cover represents this process well, as dispersed shapes come together into a mass that is not unitary but monstrous, bursting open at the seams, each percussive blast a potential universe, each electronically modified wail a form astray that at a distance fulfills its holistic promise without ever compromising its own wholeness.
These free jazz staples come together not solely as performative unity, but perhaps mostly as a ‘naturalistic’ procedure, the earthquakes that birth mountains, the clash between an ocean wave and a rocky beach, more than the formation of communities and the clash between a single voice with the multitude. In other words, the music here develops like soundscapes, not like sheer expression and will, its structure much closer to ambient and drone than the free jazz from which Flowers of Sulphur’s sound seems to grow. The chemical transformation of moods is, in this sense, the distinct points at which the performers converge not as communion or individuals but as the mechanical elements of something larger than them, hinting at sounds almost paradoxically impersonal, flowing into each other and drawing away as if they were mere facts of the world.
It shares much more with experimental music than any other form, insofar as these tracks are made for us to explore, to lose ourselves in, to dwell upon its beautiful monstrosity as it recedes into silence only to burst with noise soon after, a primal call from below to purify the mind from the haze of conventional sounds, leaving only their most terrible leaps in beauty, taken always from the brink of an Earth-shaped abyss. (David Murrieta)