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Flox - Square

  by Adrian Janes

published: 31 / 7 / 2022

Flox - Square
Label: Underdog Music
Format: CD


Seventh album from Franco-British nu reggae exponent Flox is a soundtrack for Summer

Flox has Franco-British lineage, an unusual combination that in a way is reflected in the ‘nu reggae’ style of ‘Square’, which combines a 1970’s roots feel with a more contemporary reliance on loops and electronic instruments; the traditional prominence of rhythm guitar is often given over here to a keyboard. He himself sings in a relaxed style, albeit that there are some verbal barbs concealed amongst the mellowness. It’s an album that seems made for Summer days, whether it be the sprightly uplift of ‘Move On’, the cheerful advocacy of ‘Smoke Grass’ (which refreshingly claims no great virtues for the practice, simply noting “Don’t see anything above/It’s just something I love”) or the shimmering sounds and lazy feel of ‘Morning Tempo’. But there is too an acknowledgement of a darker side to Summer, and life, with ‘In the Shade’ asking pointedly “What you gonna do/If you can’t live in the shade?” Yet this is a track that towards the end undermines its clarity with a tendency, shown on other tracks as well, to overload the music with gabbled words and a consequent straining for rhymes as well as sense: “Save a caterpillar/Enemies for dinner…Sprinkle on some glitter/Get rid of the stinger”. ‘Herbs and Spices’, with its harmony vocals, caressed guitar and gentle kick drum, is another calming warm balm. In some way that’s not easily apparent, apart from a shared distorted synth, it’s presumably linked to the later ‘Spices and Herbs’. The latter is an odd contrast to the rest of the album, partly as the sole instrumental, but far more because of its uncharacteristic aggression, the now insistent kick drum overlaid by grating, unrelenting synth set against reverbed guitar. It’s as if Flox had suddenly decided to collaborate with William Reid. It certainly makes for a change, but whether it’s one that those who like the rest of the album will welcome seems doubtful. Where much of ‘Square’ could be a good soundtrack to walking along a beach in the sun, the compelling keyboard and beat of ‘Be My Guest’ take things indoors for a sweaty club work-out. Flox repeatedly informs us “Competition is a prison”, his message summed up by the statement “He who needs competition to be efficient is deficient”, at one stroke demolishing the ideological edifice of neo-liberalism. But it probably makes more sense on the dancefloor than the trading floor. The title track closes the album. A song of resolve (“It’s as if I’ve been squaring my shoulder/From the very first step”), ‘square’ seems to be a state Flox aspires to, where he can “Forever lie low calm”. Well, if words like bad and sick can be reclaimed to become something positive, there’s no reason why it can’t happen for square too. It’s another slice of fairly appealing roots-style reggae at any rate, with a buzzing synth and guitar drifting in and out to retain the record’s sense of mild experimentation. ‘Square’ isn’t an album that will épater la bourgeoisie, but its gently optimistic take on reggae still deserves a spin or two.

Track Listing:-
1 Smoke Grass
2 In The Shade
3 Coming Out
4 Herbs And Spices
5 Never Gonna Stop
6 Morning Tempo
7 Spices And Herbs
8 Move On
9 Be My Guest
10 Square

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