Written by Josh Coxon
With their self-titled debut LP Brisbane neo-soul/R&B 4-piece L. Flora have arrived on the scene with a fully fleshed-out sound that oozes warmth and self-assurance. Made up of an experienced crew of local muso’s, the tracks captured on this album feel like a breath of fresh air, clear and crisp as the sunny winter days we’re currently enjoying here in the great South-East.
Now, I don’t know about you, but to me the blossoming of the neo-soul genre amongst current musical practices and tastes is an encouraging vessel for, and signifier of the positive attitudes taking hold in our current era. Themes of nurturing, self-care, mindfulness, acceptance and good old fashioned human love are often the nucleus for both lyrical and musical matter within this style. Naturally adding their own flair and originality to the genre’s established codes and conventions, L. Flora exemplifies these themes brilliantly. Vocalist/keyboardist Millie Khalu constantly works in synergy with her bandmates’ considered performances to convey hope, determination and harmony against all odds.
In opener Come Up the band welcomes the listener with open arms, as Khalu acknowledges her faults and struggles yet ultimately offers herself up as a source of support to those she holds dear, repeating as if a mantra - “Trust me if I touch you then I touch you with love”. Not that there’s any lack of sass sprinkled throughout other tracks, as on the decidedly electro hook-driven piece Child and lead single Strangers - anchored by a fuzzy synth bass line Khalu leers back at the petulant male gaze - “Lookin at me like I could be yours if you like/ oh I’m your mother/ I’m your sister/I’m your damn fuckin wife”.
Throughout the record the rhythm section constantly weave in around each other, keyboardist Toby Young’s breezy chord changes and flourishes are complemented by Michael Ellul’s tasteful guitar licks, never getting in the way and adding an organic texture to L. Flora’s rich sonic palette. Behind them Justin Parslow deftly switches between acoustic and electric drums, a restless presence always pushing the songs forward and responding to every nuance with aplomb.
After the sparkling straight forward electro-pop of Running, the album really begins to live up to its format in its second half, with guest saxophonist Yori Dade taking the spotlight in a duo of instrumental detours. Walk Home and In Between are brisk jazzy offerings that work to break up the album in a wonderful way, although Khalu’s vocals are noticeably absent this in no way detracts from the flow, and in fact only makes her return in the deeply affecting Unknown all the more welcome.
Album closer Laurie is about as suitable a send-off as could be hoped for, yet another intricate guitar lick from Ellul leaves space for lyrics detailing the guilt inevitably induced by a failed relationship. A muted trumpet takes a solo in the jabby bridge section, before the final coda has Khalu heartbreakingly urging the protagonists and we the listeners to “say your goodbyes”. Thankfully for us all of this is captured on recording, so we don’t have to wait long to be invited back by the warm aural hug lovingly offered by L. Flora.
The band will be launching the album tomorrow night at Bloodhound Bar in Fortitude Valley with support from Matt Treffene (BTHC), Simi Lacroix & May Lynn.