The Flowers of Hell

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The Flowers of Hell
Bunker1 web.jpg
Background information
Origin Toronto & London
Genres Experimental, Space Rock, Post Rock, Drone, Psychedelic, 21st Century Classical
Years active 2002 - Present
Labels Optical Sounds
Benbecula Records
Fat Ghost
Saved By Vinyl
Awkward Silence
Starmole Japan
Earworm Records
Shifty Disco

The Flowers of Hell are a trans-Atlantic experimental orchestra made up of a revolving line-up of 16 or so independent musicians based in Toronto and London. Their largely instrumental sound builds bridges between classical music and post rock, shoegaze, space rock, and drone music, often resulting in their being described as an orchestral extension of the work of The Velvet Underground and Spacemen 3.[1][2]

Led by synesthete composer Greg Jarvis, much of their repertoire is an exploration of the timbre-to-shape synesthesia that causes Jarvis to involuntarily perceive all sounds as floating abstract visual forms.[3]

The group's music has been championed by Lou Reed,[4] Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine),[5][6] Peter Kember (Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3) and numerous others. They have had positive coverage from media including Rolling Stone,[7] NME,[8] Pitchfork,[9] and BBC Radio.[10]


The Flowers of Hell moniker comes from an old blues concept of transformation whereby the misery and toil of the musician results in the pleasure of the listener. The name was first used by the group’s founder Greg Jarvis on tracks included on various UK covermount CDs in 2002 and 2003, of which just under two million units were distributed. Jarvis expanded the project into a London based live act in 2005 with the founding six piece line up consisting of himself as the principal guitarist, Guri Hummelsund on drums, Abi Fry on viola (later of British Sea Power and Bat For Lashes), Owen James on trumpet, Ruth Barlow as the accompanying guitarist, and Steve Head on Hammond organ. During 2006 and 2007 the group underwent numerous small line up changes.

In early 2008, following a move back to his native Toronto after a decade spent abroad in London and Eastern Europe,[11] Jarvis debuted a North American branch of the group as an opening act for Spectrum[12] (one of the post-Spacemen 3 projects of Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember). The Flowers of Hell now operate on both continents simultaneously with Jarvis going back and forth for concerts and all members contributing to recordings.[13]

Throughout the band’s evolution, Jarvis has remained as its main composer and producer. Jarvis is a synaesthete and his compositions and productions are largely based upon his timbre-to-shape synaesthetic visions.Synaesthesia is a neurological phenomena where two senses are intermingled. With the timbre-to-shape variant, differing timbres give rise to a visual language of sound.[14]

In the fall of 2008, at the request of Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine, the Flowers Of Hell opened for MBV on one of the eight North American dates of the MBV reunion tour. Shields had seen the group perform a number of times in London at popular nugaze nights such as Sonic Cathedral.[5][6]

Notable events in the group's history have also included NASA's mission control staff in 2009 declaring their fandom and synchronizing The Flowers of Hell song Sympathy For Vengeance with fresh Discovery shuttle footage.[15] In 2010 Greg Jarvis made headlines after being detained in Sentani, West Papua by rebel soldiers from the Organisasi Papua Merdeka. Jarvis was mistaken for a spy and used a ukelele to prove he was a musician.[16] [17] [18] In September 2011, The Flowers of Hell closed Toronto's experimental/new classical Intersection Festival, performing as a 12 piece seated ensemble with Jarvis conducting a full 45 minute rendition of his composition "O", as a free open-air concert on the city's main public square.[19]


The group have collaborated with many musicians who’ve been side players or leaders in well established acts from the experimental side of the indie rock genre.[1] Performers who have guested on Flowers Of Hell recordings and/or live shows include Pete 'Sonic Boom' Kember (Spacemen 3, Spectrum, E.A.R.), Will Carruthers (Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Brian Jonestown Massacre), Ray Dickaty (Spiritualized), Ivan Kral (Patti Smith Group, Iggy Pop's band), Ivo Pospíšil (DG 307, Garáž),[20] Owen Pallett (Arcade Fire, Final Fantasy, Hidden Cameras), Tim Holmes (Death in Vegas), Julie Penner (Broken Social Scene, Do Make Say Think), Abi Fry (British Sea Power, Bat for Lashes),[20] Neil 'Hamilton' Wilkinson (British Sea Power,[20]Mel Draisey (The Clientele, Le Volume Courbe, Primal Scream), Jon McCann (Guided by Voices), John Mark Lapham (The Earlies), Tom Knott (The Earlies), Jan Muchow (Ecstasy of Saint Theresa).[21]


Studio Albums

  • 2012 Odes (Optical Sounds)
  • 2010 "O" (Optical Sounds)
  • 2009 Come Hell Or High Water (Unfamiliar Records, Benbecula, Saved By Vinyl)
  • 2006 The Flowers of Hell (Earworm Records)

Live Albums



  • 2009 White Out (Fat Ghost)
  • 2009 Blumchen (Shifty Disco Records)
  • 2006 Excerpt from Opt Out (Shifty Disco Records digital)
  • 2005 The Joy of Sleeping (Shifty Disco Records)
  • 2005 Solitary Closure (Shifty Disco Records)
  • 2005 Foreign Lands (Shifty Disco Records)


  • 2014 Heiligen - Music For A Good Home 3 (Audioscope/Shelter charity compilation)
  • 2014 Atmosphere - Psych Pop 2 (Optical Sounds compilation)
  • 2013 Mr.Tambourine Man - Strange Brew (UNCUT magazine covermount compilation)
  • 2013 Muchomurky Bile - Psych Pop From Toronto (Optical Sounds compilation)
  • 2012 The Human Illusion - A Changing Landscape (IFAR compilation)
  • 2009 Darklands - Never Lose That Feeling 3 (AC30 covers compilation)
  • 2007 Compound Fractures - Psychedelica 2 (Northern Star Records comp)
  • 2005 The Sunrise Retreat - Algidance 3
  • 2002 The Joy of Sleeping - Relax (Eve magazine covermount compilation)
  • 2002 Gonna Stop (Wastin' My Time) - Red (Red magazine covermount compilation)
  • 2002 Vindaloop - Dawn (Daily Star covermount compilation)


  1. ^ a b Allmusic review of The Flowers of Hell album
  2. ^ Eye Weekly review
  3. ^ Anon. (May 28). "Blended Senses". The National (CBC). Retrieved September 9, 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Anon. (July 20, 2012). "July 20, 2012 Playlist". Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Now magazine Perlich's Picks
  6. ^ a b Mondo magazine concert review
  7. ^ Anon. (May 28). "Hype Monitor: Brajo, Avi Buffalo, Flowers Of Hell". Rolling Stone (Rolling STone). Retrieved September 9, 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ O'Keefe, Niall (April 3, 2009). "Album Review: The Flowers Of Hell, Come Hell Or High Water". NME (NME). Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  9. ^ Raber, Rebecca (July 28, 2010). "The Flowers Of Hell, Come Hell Or High Water". ( Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  10. ^ Anon. (February 14, 2010). "Clare McDonnell 14/02/2010". BBC (BBC). Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  11. ^ Bimm, Jordan (April 1, 2009). "Flower Power: shoegazer orchestra goes global". Now (newspaper) (Now (newspaper)). Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  12. ^ Anon. (February 7, 2008). "The Scene: shows that rocked Toronto last week". Now (newspaper) (Now (newspaper)). Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  13. ^ Zarobiak, Joshua (April 5, 2011). "The Sights And Sounds Of Success". Durham College. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  14. ^ Everett-Green, Robert (Dec 3, 2010). "For Musician With Synaethesia, The Cello Can Sound Too Fury. Or Too Red.". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  15. ^ Louche, Liz (March 15, 2010). "Flowers of Hell enlist musicians from Broken Social Scene, Spiritualized, Guided by Voices, and more to join their NASA-approved space rock jam session". Tiny Mix Tapes (Tiny Mix Tapes). Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  16. ^ Anon. (October 12, 2010). "Flowers Of Hell mainman mistaken for MI5 spy in Papua New Guinea". NME (NME). Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  17. ^ Dombal, Ryan (October 12, 2010). "Flowers Of Hell Leader Mistaken For A Spy, narrowly escapes kidnapping in Papua New Guinea". Pitchfork (Pitchfork). Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  18. ^ Hudson, Alex (October 12, 2010). "Flowers Of Hell Leader Mistaken For A Spy In Papua New Guinea, Forced to play for his life". Exclaim! (Exclaim!). Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  19. ^ Huffa, Joane (September 2, 2011). "Flowers Of Hell in full bloom INTERsection Festival allows experimental band to blossom in Yonge Dundas Square". Now (newspaper) (Now (newspaper)). Retrieved September 15, 2012. 
  20. ^ a b c Adams, Gregory. (7 September 2012) Flowers of Hell Reveal 'Odes' Details, Share Joy Division Cover Exclaim!.
  21. ^ Drowned In Sound

External links[edit]