Positive Flow: Flow Lines
Tokyo Dawn Records

Lovers of nu-soul, nu-jazz, and nu-house will find much to admire about this debut collection for Tokyo Dawn Records by UK-based multi-instrumentalist Jesse Reuben Wilson under the Positive Flow moniker. The disc serves up fifteen choice cuts of warm electronic soul sprinkled with vocals and dressed up in rich, expansive arrangements filled with strings, flutes, keyboards, horns, harps, synths, and percussion. Wilson gets no small amount of support from a stellar vocal crew that includes Omar, Stacy Epps, Colonel Red, Vanessa Freeman, Heidi Vogel, and others.

Vogel (known for her work with Cinematic Orchestra) guests on the luscious opener “Children of the Sun,” which makes an undeniably strong case for the Positive Flow sound. In keeping with the song's title, a warm and relaxedly grooving pulse lends the tune a breezy and summery feel, and the vocals are deliciously soulful, too. As satisfying is “In the Garden of Your Life” for the sultry vocal Freeman brings to the song's nu-soul splendour. British soul singer Omar appears on two cuts, the first “My Prediction,” which underlays his falsetto vocal turn with a strings-heavy and Latin-tinged arrangement, and the second “Do What I Do,” which calls to mind Sly Stone's 1973 Fresh cut “If You Want Me to Stay.” The album takes a funkier turn in “Hold On,” where Colonel Red throws down amidst slap bass and a synth-laden groove, and broken beat re-surfaces in the Vogel workout “Stronger Than a Mountain.” “Tapestries of My Mind” begins as a laid-back ballad but then picks up steam and turns into an urgent house jam with Andre Espeut leading the way.

Hints of a jazz fusion influence surface now and then, sometimes in a short break during a vocal cut or in an instrumental such as “Orange & Brown,” where the music could pass for some Crusaders-Headhunters joint. And though the vocal tracks naturally catch one's ear right away, lush instrumental stormers like “Phaedra's Flight,” “Axis,” and “Capoeira” have much to recommend them, too. As the album plays, memories of Barry White and Soul II Soul might surface in listeners of a certain age, given the songs' arrangements and soulful spirit, but it's important to note that Flow Lines ' soulful electronica doesn't look back so much as offer an contemporary riff on a timeless sound. Think of it as a wonderful surprise.

December 2012