Pre-2000 Singles and Comp Tracks, Vols. 1 and 2 by Flowchart (Review)

No matter which disc you get, the wide array of styles makes for an interesting listen.
Pre-2000 Singles & Compilation Tracks - Flowchart

Before I got these CDs, I had never heard of Flowchart, but after looking over the discs, I had the feeling that I should have. Given the very fact that such a thing had been released, with a total of 29 songs spanning two discs, I thought that perhaps Flowchart was some hugely popular indie rock act that for some reason had slipped by me. Since I had no idea as to who Flowchart was, I didn’t really have an idea as to what to expect in terms of sound.

But as it turns out, Flowchart doesn’t really have much of a sound. The songs on these discs span a wide array of genres, from flat out rock to electro-pop to droning ambience. Sean O’Neal and the rest of the ever-changing lineup of Flowchart have created a wide array of songs that are impressive in their scope of styles and consistent in their quality, though none of it is particularly mind-blowing.

The first disc (red in color) begins with “High Phidelity,” a song released when the band went by the name of Heroine. It rocks along, propelled by guitar and female vocals for 6 minutes, and is followed up by “Pronoun-u,” another Heroine rocker. Starting off with a blast of distorted guitar and continuing with it in a more structured way than “High Phidelity,” the track features both female and male vocals (I’m not sure of the singers’ names — at the time, the band featured Sean O’Neal, Brodie Budd, and Craig Bottel, so I can only assume the female was Brodie and the male one of the others.)

But those two tracks are oddities on a predominantly electronic and instrumental disc. “Acoustic Ambience” shows robotic beeps and keyboard swells over drones of metallic, yellow noise, and “Wurlitzer Inn” brings back the female vocals, only this time they are wordless and sighing along with wintry synths. “Some Air Disturbances” is one of the more experimental tracks, with swirling sounds and buzzing static that only bears a resemblance to a melody towards the end, when the mellow strumming of a guitar crawls out from underneath all the noise. On the prettier side are titles like “Sole Qualm,” a warm song with vast synths and ringing chimes drifting above a thumping beat, and the spacey “Hollow Sky,” which is made unique by its filtered alien vocals.

The disc also features two covers. “Lovefingers,” originally a song by the Silver Apples, is one of the stronger tracks on the discs, and while I have no idea as to what the original song sounds like, this one is cheery and robotic. “Here’s Where The Story Ends,” originally by The Sundays, is one of the nicer songs on either disc, with hushed vocals and mellow guitars that are eventually overpowered by screeching swaths of keyboards.

The second disc (blue in color) showcases a much quieter and better collection of songs. “Flutter By Butterfly,” which is apparently a fan favorite, is the most immediately enjoyable song, sampling clips of children saying things like “That’s a butterfly!” and “It’s pretty” to a heartwarming effect. “Compilation Dream Song” does indeed sound like something out of a dream; after repeatedly asking “Do you know who I am yet?,” a taunting low-pitched voice reveals itself to be a policeman amidst a soundscape of cooled keyboards and beeps that grows into something playful and comforting. Since these songs are from the latter part of Flowchart’s lifetime, they sound much more accomplished and thought-out. “Elephant Boy’s First Day Of School” and “Know Your Flow” both take advantage of some awesome sounds that an earlier Flowchart would not have been capable of producing.

The two-disc set (the discs are sold as separate volumes) paints a picture of the evolution of Flowchart, from rocker to amateur sound experimentalist to more accomplished electronica artist. If you have an inclination to get some Flowchart, but aren’t sure which of the two discs to get (and you can’t afford both), the second disc is a much better buy. But no matter which disc you get, the wide array of styles makes for an interesting listen.

Written by Richie DeMaria.

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