Although a highly regarded guitarist, Andee Blacksugar’s talents extend far beyond that single instrument; his solo material not only demonstrates his instrumental range, but also his musicality as he incorporates elements as seemingly disparate as funk, soul, and R&B with the more abrasive sounds of alternative and industrial rock. The Flowering is the second installment in his 2020 trilogy, following up on Wandering into the Bullseye with a conceptual companion that perhaps draws less of the carnal or sensual allusions of the previous album, while still sonically adventurous and disturbing in its appeal. For example, “Grovel” marches through the speakers with a distinct electro-meets-alt. rock edge that recalls the grittier moments of Nine Inch Nails or Killing Joke in the ‘90s, while Blacksugar’s signature vocal acrobatics on the track remind this writer somewhat of Chris Connelly. Similarly, the lyrical venom of social commentary in “I Didn’t Choose” creates a nice contrast with the abrasive yet danceable funk disco instrumental, sounding like Le Chic sprinkled with more than a dash of ‘90s cynicism, and while the sitar and sampled voice loops of “Fight Just to Be Afraid” are more than a little insistent, they create a nice rhythmic bedrock for Blacksugar’s striking vocal, topped off with a classic guitar solo. From a production standpoint, The Flowering is as accomplished and progressive as anything in the Black Sugar Transmission discography, the artist’s vibrant exploration of tonal palettes for the guitar recalling the likes of such pioneers as Adrian Belew or Tom Morello, all the while balanced with slick electronics and beat structures to make for a truly unique art rock sound in the tradition of Peter Gabriel and David Bowie. The acoustic guitars that adorn “The Resistance” and “Do You Know” add a saccharine touch that is particularly arresting on the latter track as Blacksugar’s vocal melody mirrors that of the guitar, resulting in one of the album’s best tracks. On the other hand, songs like “This Is Crazy Town” and “Stars Malign” growl with seething, throaty synth and guitar leads that overlay sustained electronic drones and sparse beats that allow the flippancy of the lyrics to shine in a manner that is, once again, reminiscent of the ‘90s, while “Through the Torture” and “Temperamental” sound like a mangled interpretation of the current trends of ‘80s nostalgia. As is always the case with a Black Sugar Transmission album, The Flowering is a treat – if a challenging one – for the ears; Andee Blacksugar’s layered and complex arrangements belie the simplicity of the songwriting, infusing each track with intrigue and atmosphere that is as irresistible and it is discordant. And there’s still one more album in the series to go for this year.