Positive Flow: Can U Feel It?

Tim O'Neil

Positive Flow

Can U Feel It?

Label: Shanachie
US Release Date: 2004-08-24
UK Release Date: Available as import

I've been sitting on this disc for far longer than I should. I've listened to it many times, trying desperately to develop some sort of hook with which to approach it. It has been a maddening and humbling experience in critical impotence for this reviewer.

Can U Feel It? has defeated me. I wave the white flag. It's not that this is a bad album, but it isn't a very good album either. It is startlingly average in a way that I have rarely ever encountered before. There is absolutely nothing remarkable in any way, shape or form about this album, and as someone who prides himself on being able to appreciate just about anything, if given enough time, this is a hard admission to make.

Positive Flow is the ultimate hybrid of smooth jazz, mellow R&B and mild Morcheeba-esque trip-hop. All three of these genres can be mind-bendingly dull -- together, in the form of Can U Feel It?, they add up to an almost irresistible narcoleptic.

The production mastermind behind Positive Flow is a man named Chris Morgans who came to the fore as the co-founder of another group, Down To The Bone. I seem to have managed to avoid that group's output, and based on the output of his current group, I'm not very motivated to track it down. There is absolutely nothing distinctive about the production on Can U Feel It?. The music is evocative of half a dozen other, superior groups and producers -- I don't know whether Naked Music's Jay Denes was an influence on Morgans, of vice versa, or even if they have any knowledge of each other, but there is a definite sonic kinship. The major difference is that Denes' production is actually interesting, with deep grooves and subtle hooks throughout, while Morgans' work is largely limpid. Oh, don't get me wrong, there's nothing whatsoever wrong with it... there is just nothing whatsoever to recommend it.

Donna Gardier, featured prominently on most of the album's tracks, is not a bad vocalist, not by any means. But the material she has concocted with Morgans is so very torpid that it's hard to really get a handle on her talents. Certainly, she wouldn't be the first great vocalist to be saddled with terminally lame material, but it nonetheless reflects poorly on her.

The album begins with "The City Streets", which is, I would guess, the album's first single (based on the appearance of two alternate mixes at the end of the disc). There really is no better example of the disc's shortcomings: tasteful arrangements, slightly funky jazz beats and languid instrumental flourishes combine to create a totally unfulfilling experience for the listener. There is definitely such a thing as too much good taste, and it seems that this dreaded condition is very much to blame for the dreadful lack of engagement at the heart of Can U Feel It?.

Its not impossible to do good music in this genre, but it is very difficult. Look at Groove Armada's first two major label releases, Vertigo and Goodbye Country, Hello Nightclub, for two good examples. But Groove Armada know something that Positive Flow does not: how to keep their music interesting by injecting unexpected and sometimes contradictory sonic elements into their compositions. Everything on Can U Feel It? seems very much of a piece, and despite the fact that a few tracks may have a faster beat than others, the pulse never raises, and at no time do any specific elements rise above the mix to impress you. There is a dreadful sameness throughout, and over the course of a 65-minute CD, that unpleasant sensation can prove deadly.

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