Thanks to its release date, when people name Shawn Rudiman‘s Flow State as their album of the year it will not be entirely clear which year they mean. It’s appearance on many of these charts, however, is guaranteed. It really is one of the best electronic music albums of the last 5 years.
Flow State describes the aesthetic as well as names them. Intended as a “companion” to his earlier Pittsburgh Tracks album Conduit, Flow State leads you out by silent direction to a floating platform that launches you on a trip through space, time, spacetime and luminous sound. Through 21 tracks, Flow State is the plot, the scenery and the driver on a journey that stimulates the senses and empties out the mind.
Many of the moments on Flow State form a bridge to the past. Several of these tracks hearken back to the more structured instrumental music, the kind you might hear from the likes of Tangerine Dream or lost master Tetsu Inoue. But nothing here is of a whole or blatantly lifted out of history. It’s unfortunate we have to compare new things to old things all the time: much of this is almost peerless, without precedent, from a blank page.
There has been no shortage of ambient records made and released during lockdown. Lockdown has in fact been lousy with them. Despite writing about them only occasionally, 5 Mag is receiving on average three ambient albums a day in our music submission box. When listening to your third hour of swelling synths and synthesized raindrops, you ask yourself what really distinguishes one of these from another, and one of those from a great album such as this. This isn’t totally ambient — Shawn Rudiman’s tracks have an innate rhythm that instinctively organizes anything he’s working on around an 808 handclap’s sense of time. But more importantly, that’s connected to the human hand guiding this, the fingerprints of the person who made it, his thoughts, style and vision. I don’t know if you could close your eyes and know this was made by Shawn Rudiman, but I know you can’t listen to it without knowing it was made by someone like him.
Shawn Rudiman: Flow State (Pittsburgh Tracks / January 2021 / Digital/12″ Vinyl)
1. Shawn Rudiman: 80 Years of Hypersleep 04:28
2. Shawn Rudiman: Numeric Tenderness 04:30
3. Shawn Rudiman: Cloud Lake Motel 05:09
4. Shawn Rudiman: Wave Effect 07:08
5. Shawn Rudiman: The Breathing Machine 01:27
6. Shawn Rudiman: Power Exposure 02:34
7. Shawn Rudiman: There Is No Sanctuary 05:39
8. Shawn Rudiman: Untethered 06:32
9. Shawn Rudiman: Re-Tethered 06:34
10. Shawn Rudiman: Pollution Dreams 04:16
11. Shawn Rudiman: Soshu Kitae (Masamune’s Forge) 04:13
12. Shawn Rudiman: Savage Enlightenment 05:30
13. Shawn Rudiman: Internal Trigger 05:37
14. Shawn Rudiman: There’s a Darkness Under Every Sun 05:42
15. Shawn Rudiman: Missteps 06:30
16. Shawn Rudiman: Another Imminent Collapse 04:47
17. Shawn Rudiman: The Introduction to the End 07:16
18. Shawn Rudiman: There Never Was a Tomorrow, Was There? 02:20
19. Shawn Rudiman: Wash Over Me (Digital Exclusive) 07:58
20. Shawn Rudiman: Soshu Kitae (Digital Exclusive) 05:41
21. Shawn Rudiman: I’d Like to Extend My Stay at the Cloud Lake Motel (Digital Exclusive) 03:00
22. Shawn Rudiman: Flow State (Director’s Cut) 01:17:50
⚪️ Disclosure Statement: This record was submitted as a promo by EPM.
Photo: Shawn Rudiman, provided.