MND FLO (pronounced “mind flow”) are a quartet of Berklee students—pianist Sharik Hasan, vibraphonist Simon Moullier, bassist Alexander L.J. Tóth and drummer Anthony A. Tóth (yes, they’re brothers). From Time, their debut album, is self-produced and self-released.

Despite the fact that their primary instrumentation mirrors that of the Modern Jazz Quartet, their music is pretty far from the tuxedoed chamber jazz of that legendary group. In fact, it has more in common with the minimalist, churning, rock-inflected material of bands like GoGo Penguin, E.S.T., BADBADNOTGOOD, and the like. They add instruments as needed—on the album-opening “Odyssey,” Alexander Tóth plays Fender Rhodes in addition to bass, while his brother adds trumpet and recites a short poem as lyrics. Alexander also contributes synth, guitar, and piano to various pieces, as necessary; Moullier plays percussion and synth here and there; and all four group members add vocals to the album’s final track, “For Peach.”

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Hasan is possessed of both lyricism and force; his chords have a boom that implies classical training, while his melodic extrapolations point to the influence of Keith Jarrett (though he keeps his mouth shut while he plays). On “EMS,” he backs away to let Moullier deliver a weird, proggy synth solo; the piece ultimately builds up a powerful wave of fusion-y energy, with Anthony Tóth‘s drumming becoming a hard rock assault. At times, Moullier’s use of pedals with his vibes makes them sound like a synthesizer. This is jazz unashamed to admit it’s from 2018.

“SMDAMA” is a soft-focus, shimmering ballad with plenty of studio polish (reverb, soft background synths, oddly tuned percussion clangs) and a feel somewhere between smooth jazz and glossy late ’80s pop. “Planet Hunter” lives up to its sci-fi title, with powerful piano and vibes building to a baroque percussiveness not unlike the work of Kamasi Washington-associated pianist Cameron Graves, minus Graves’ heavy metal energy. “Confluence” pairs the minimalist pulse of Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin with shimmering vibes and crisp, frenetic drumming.

From Time is a confident debut by a band that can likely find a lot of room to play within the sonic territory they’ve mapped out. It will be interesting to hear where MND FLO go next.

Phil Freeman

Stream From Time:

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