Music Review : Cosmic Flute Rides Again album by Jacob “NTHNL” Rudin
I did not expect to fall in love with an album dominated by flutes. Furthermore, I am generally skeptical of anything described as “cosmic.” And yet, here I am, totally enjoying music I was certain I’d have to tolerate. Cosmic Flute Rides Again, the recently released album by Brooklyn-based musician and producer Jacob “NTHNL” Rudin, defies all expectations.
Forget pan flutes and lite jazz, this album combines a variety of influences and styles. Nuzzled somewhere between electronica and synth pop, the style lives in its own niche, borrowing elements from its neighbors while maintaining its autonomy. It’s familiar and foreign, exciting and relaxing. But mostly, it’s both “joyous and absurd,” as stated by NTHNL himself.
"The flute is the oldest instrument we have evidence of, dating back at least 40000 years to both humans proper and Neanderthals. This instrument is almost as universal as music itself across human culture and serves as the gateway between the spiritual and the corporeal,” shares the classically trained composer and pianist in the official press release. His goal, though, was to use it a modern context.
Consisting of ten tracks — most of which are free of vocals, and the vocals that do exist are in a different language — are creatively and cleverly arranged. Take for example, the tribal-styled “Prelude,” which sounds nothing like the pop-inspired “Neon Flow” that follows it. Never mind that roughly three minutes in, the latter track suddenly busts out ‘80s-reminiscent gaming music.
The third track, “Our Secret,” has a very different vibe. It feels conversational, though no words are spoken throughout. But the music ebbs and flows, much like speech does. Next is “La Salle D'attente”; now, I don’t speak French and have no idea what is being expressed in this track, but the vibe makes me think of music at a trendy European cafe or a contemporary lounge.
“Full Spectrum” is similar. It’s got a faster and more upbeat pace, but the same chillax quality that dominated the previous track. While the flute puts some awesome accents on the melody, the electronic elements take the track to the next level, giving it edge and form. The little bit of dissonance before the three-minute mark provides a nice crescendo, then the melody resumes.
After that comes “Nico’s Exorcism Dance,” a slightly darker and faster track that features some interesting auditory embellishments. Funky percussion is accompanied by wind instruments that appear to range from saxophone to flute, and the electronic components add a contemporary depth with an old school quality to it; think classic noir films with a modern soundtrack.
“Digital Exposure” is a bit darker and, indeed, digital. The tempo is quick, the flutes are accompanied by some awesome beat programming, and an impressive cello solo by Aliya Ultan. But “Sexual Selection,” which comes right after, is a lot slower and melodic, though the same instruments appear to be in use.
Then, something a bit familiar. The opening on “Avec Tendresse” reminds me of the beat used in Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” But as the track unfolds, it deviates so far from the song that you quickly forget how it started. “Alice” concludes the track list. Slow and a bit melancholic, it’s a good way to wind down the album, which is truly enjoyable. Hope you check it out at Spotify
NTHNL: Flutes, saxophone, keyboards, beat programming, production, mixing.
Derek Dupuis: keyboard solo on Neon Flow | Mastered by James Lambert
Cover photo by Dafna Steinberg | Layout by Kyra Thompson
Note* Music provided for objective review by our partners.