Over the better part of this year, I’ve written a bit about the acclaimed multi-continental-based psych rock act Flamingods, and as as you may recall, the band’s Bahraini-born founder and frontman, Kamal Rasool has traveled widely to collect rare and unique instruments from Tanzania, The Amazon and elsewhere. When Rasool relocated to London to study music, he recruited a few friends from Bahrain and London to start a band, including the members of the band’s current lineup — Karthik Poduval, Sam Rowe and Charles Prest. Their first live show together was a highly praised, attention-grabbing set during 2010’s ATP Festival, which quickly led to a national profile.
Building upon a growing profile, the members of Flamingods quickly released two EPs, 2010’s Sun and 2011’s Away. 2013’s full-length debut Sun was a reimagining of the material off the EP of the same name that featured “Quesso,” a collaboration with Ponytail‘s Dustin Wong on lead guitar. Around the time of Sun’s release, the British government enacted new visa laws, which forced Rasool to return to Bahrain after finishing school. He then moved to Dubai, where he worked for an independent magazine and coffee shop. And although at that point, the members of the band were rising on different continents and unable to play together, they managed to find a way to continue working on new material, which would eventually become their critically applauded sophomore album, Hyperborea, an album that established a globe-spanning take on psychedelia that the band has dubbed “Exotic Psychedelia.”
During the release of Hyperborea, Prest relocated to Dubai to work closely with Rasool. Shortly after Prest’s relocation, the band began working on their third full-length album, 2016’s Majesty, an album that was largely inspired by the likes of Les Baxter, Tito Puente, Arthur Lyman and others. The album was released to generally mixed reviews, but it was championed by BBC Radio 6‘s Gilles Peterson and Lauren Laverne, who both invited the band to record live sessions. With Rasool and Prest able to return to the UK, the band was finally able to extensively across the UK and the European Union to support the album, including sets at Green Man Festival, End of the Road Festival, and Fusion Festival.
In February 2017, the band signed with Moshi Moshi Records,who released that year’s Kewali EP. The band toured to support the effort, which included their SXSW debut. The band also released a remix album of Majesty that featured remixes of album material by Ibibio Sound Machine, Meridian Brothers and Oasis‘ Andy Bell. They also released a Dan Carey-produced live version of “Hyperborea.”
The band’s fourth album Levitation was released earlier this year, and the album was largely inspired by the disco, funk and psychedelic sounds out of the Middle East and South Asia in the ’70s — but filtered through mysticism, positivity and sun-drenched imagery. More importantly, the Levitation recording sessions found the band living and working together on the same continent for the first time in about four years. And as a result. the album’s material may arguably be the most unified effort they’ve written and released to date.
The album’s first single “Marigold” was a trippy bit of psych rock centered around a motorik groove, shimmering and arpeggiated synths delivered with a Brit Pop-like swagger. Interestingly, the album’s second single, album opening track “Paradise Drive” continues in a fairly similar vein as its predecessor, complete with a motorik groove, shimmering and arpeggiated synths — but the song may arguably bear the most uncanny resemblance to Evil Heat-era Primal Scream of the entire album. Interestingly, the album’s latest single is the breezy, Sgt. Pepper-like “Olympia.” Centered around fluttering synths, fuzzy and distorted guitars, a propulsive rhythm section and Rasool’s dreamy vocals the track is a seamless and brightly colored synthesis of 60s psychedelia and Brit Pop.
Directed by Andrea Mae, the recently released video for “Olympia” is a lysergic fever dream, featuring the members of the band having wild visions while in a sauna. “For this video, I was inspired by the ghosts that haunt each of us human beings. I chose to have one of these as a central character of the narrative and to give it a place filled with light, positivity, or perhaps a touch of humour,” Mae explains. “The sauna was an addition to this concept because it is purifying place, a room where you are in company and in a state of peace. I wanted something that looked like a modern day psychedelic cartoon, but mixed with some vintage, experimental footage to try and create a hybrid that looks part 60’s and part now.”