Flowchart emerged from Southern Jersey as masters of electronic sounds and the spaces in-between. The duo’s music ranges from lounge-loving pop to abstract waves to sheets of noise, all while maintaining a playfulness that never lets pretension rear its swollen head. Sean O’Neil created the group in 1994 as Heroine, releasing a 7-inch of energetic synth pop which sounds undeniably like low-budget Stereolab. After renaming themselves Flowchart, O’Neil and Brodie Budd (assisted on their first release by Craig Bottel) made Multi-Personality Tabletop Vacation. The album is due the same comparison — the long-form repeating chords, the “shup shup” female harmonies — but Flowchart does imitate the ‘Lab rather well. The melodies are effortlessly complex, and the group deserves some acknowledgment for their efforts, even if the inspiration is second-hand.
Flowchart outgrew such criticisms with The Spirit of Kenny G, which has more straightforward pop songs and floating melodies. (The 12-inch “Evergreen Noise Is Flexible,” which goes for more abstract compositions, also helps.) “Spirit of Kenny G” utilizes deep vocals and a guitar wah effect for a sound between blaxploitation and marijuana indulgence.
Tenjira is Flowchart’s greatest release so far. Synths ring and reverberate in mellow atmospheres, while the four songs stretch out for longform repetitious development. “Nationwide Sleep Disorder” sounds like an orchestra of electronic chimes, while “El Glacier-O” uses Enya-like female vocals and an optimistic drum beat for the pure purposes of a relaxing listen. Cumulus Mood Twang manages to jump everywhere, from new wave playfulness (“Envelopment Continuum”) to an analog synth soup of sound (“Rain Boa Bye”) to dreamy abstraction (“Yosho”) to a dream pop codeine sound (“Icicles and Clipboards”). O’Neil dives into an eclectic palette of musical possibilities, never falling to whining angst or overly dramatic gothic leanings.