The young Flevans rolled into Brighton in the early noughties with nothing to his name but a crudely produced demo tape, lovingly assembled on a battered four-track while he should have been attending lectures at veterinary college. The tools may have been simple, but the musical foundations that he’d laid as a gangly kid on the mean streets of Felixstowe were sound, and his love of classic funk and soul rang out in every bar, refracted through a passion for contemporary beats in the vein of DJ Shadow and early Ninja Tune.
The irresistibly sunny homespun sampladelic funk of that rudimentary demo tape turned the head of Brighton DJ, impresario and trainer-wearer Rob Luis, who signed our up-and-coming ingenue to Tru Thoughts for a string of EPs on the fledgling label, then taking its first steps to becoming a big hitter among UK independents.
A 2004 album, Make New Friends, collected the peak moments of the EP series into one outrageously uplifting and arse-shaking release. Flevans rode the momentum into a globe-straddling maelstrom of DJing that took in Australia, the USA, the Cannes film festival and too many sweaty basements full of wig-flipping funk’n’breaks cognoscenti to accurately remember.
The learnings and yearnings of those adventures were poured into Unfabulous, his 2007 release on London’s Jack to Phono label. Keeping the same focus on clever use of samples, the album demonstrated a more diverse mix of styles, and incorporated much more of Flevans' musicianship, with his deft playing on guitars, keys and bass giving the record a more live and polished sound than his earlier work.
In 2008, Flevans joined Brighton band Backini as bass player, pin-up and party-charger. A whirlwind year took in gigs at festivals across the UK including Glastonbury and The Big Chill and live sessions at Abbey Road and Maida Vale.
The experience of transforming a studio-incubated sound into a thrilling live show inspired a continued shift towards a more organic, song-based dynamic in Flevans’ own work. This came to fruition in 27 Devils, released by Tru Thoughts in 2009, featuring vocals by Sarah Scott and Shona Foster, with all instruments played by Flevans himself.
A remix album, The 28th Devil, followed, with the likes of Hint, Regal (of The Wiseguys) and Lack of Afro spinning a kaleidoscope of altered hues from Flevans’ rich sonic palette.
A few years of siring and raising adorable half-Finnish children put something of a limit on our maturing hero’s studio time, but 2013’s Take What You Need EP on Jack to Phono gave expression to some of the diverse electronic musical styles that he’d been exploring during that domestically sleep-deprived era.
Wanting to take his flirtations with electronica, garage and unclassifiable bass mutations to the next level, he launched his AOTOA pseudonym in 2014, quickly signed to Jalapeño Records, another of Brighton’s longest serving labels, for a series of EPs and the 2015 album Seconds.
The music on A Distant View, the forthcoming 2016 long player on LOA Records, is something of a homecoming. A return to the upful funk and soul rhythms and hooks that made Flevans’ name, it shares a heartfelt and uninhibited approach with his earliest releases but struts and swings with a compositional and multi-instrumental confidence that has been honed over many years. Featuring contributions from keys specialist and regular Lack Of Afro collaborator George Cooper and the lithe bass playing of Greg Houghton, the new LP offers up a crisp warm sound and production finesse sharpened to a gleam by recent genre-wanderings and mastering work.
The first single from the new LP, Reach Out, is released on Friday 2nd September, with the album to follow on the 14th of October.