AOTY 2021
Sign In to rate and review


Loud and Quiet

Sanders’ performance is the star turn, seeming almost three-dimensional with his breath sounds and key-clicks interacting  with Shepherd’s electronics, and the LSO’s blending of their instruments is always the moreish side of soupy.


This is a truly joyous album, and a purely pleasurable experience.

The Observer
Five years in the making, this breathtaking album transcends the genres each of its three collaborators bring to the table.
Listen in solitude if you can and its beauty will illuminate your life in ways that didn’t seem possible.

A recording that is more of a transcending mind meld than it is a collaboration.


‘Promises’ is five years' worth of experimental soundscaping condensed into one mind-boggling harmonic journey. A highly accomplished piece of music.


The all-star collaboration between a producer, a saxophonist, and a symphony is a celestial event. But it’s Pharaoh Sanders’ playing that holds it all together, a clear late-career masterpiece.


There’s a timeless quality to Promises, an inscrutable sense that the album could hail from 30 years in the past or 30 years into the future. Of course, that’s what makes it a genuine intergenerational collaboration, this sense of time collapsing upon itself.


Perhaps it's reverence for the power of the expansive that makes Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders such a dynamic combination on Promises, their breathtaking collaboration.

FLOOD Magazine

Its lengthy epic movements, gently textured and opulently lived in by the London Symphony Orchestra’s startled, spacey strings, could exist on a planet of their own—a rainy evening’s night sky with stars blinking dimly before the clouds.

Crack Magazine

Certainly the most ambitious record of Shepherd’s career to date and probably the best, Promises is dream-like and totally captivating throughout.

Under The Radar

Despite these players’ histories in creating abstract noise, Promises is one of the most unexpectedly quiet and beautiful albums of the year so far. It utilizes the sheer magnitude of its stars’ talent while showing a magnificent mastery of restraint.

The Needle Drop

Promises is a tasteful, spellbinding, and beautiful intersection of jazz, classical, and electronic music.

The Sydney Morning Herald

This collaboration with Shepherd and the strings of the London Symphony Orchestra offers a stunning re-contextualisation of Sanders’ titanic tenor saxophone.

Beats Per Minute

The tremors from the encounter between Sanders and Shepherd resonating out into the infinitude. It leaves us in no doubt that we have just witnessed a meeting of monolithic proportions.

Spectrum Culture
A widescreen, cross-generational collaboration that takes the listener on a beautiful, unpredictable journey.
It’s music at its most transportive and experiential - to converse and to live and to dream with - such that both words and ratings fail to really articulate what makes it special.

It's a subtly sophisticated piece, but it also creates space for Sanders to showcase his tender, measured, lyrical phrasing, abstracted scatting and, 34 minutes into this 46-minute marvel, a brief sputtering blast of free saxophone energy that proves, at 80, his fire remains potent.

The Arts Desk

Promises is a musical space for play and contemplation, where the attention to detail, stimulated by the repetitive leitmotif, makes the moments of variation and improvisation emotionally extraordinary.

Northern Transmissions

A combination of elegance, subtlety and sophistication; where jazz, electronics and strings coalesce in a perfect union.

The Line of Best Fit

Promises matches the patience required for the project’s realization. Built on a sparse keyboard figure, the composition at the core of the collaboration can initially seem underwhelmingly slender, even repetitively monotonous. Repeated listens gradually reveal a different story.

Rolling Stone
Sanders pushes his sound to its most heavenly extreme, with his murmuring lines hovering above producer Floating Points’ ambient-classical shimmer.
Record Collector

It's an impressive if harmonically static musical edifice built on Shepherd's omnipresent keyboard ripples, over which Sanders' braying tenor sax emits billowing squalls of sound ... Promises exhibits a rare unique beauty.


Promises is an impressive collision oftalents, and sublimely lovely in places, but also frustratingly slight.

To Shepherd's credit, his framework for Sanders is in the moment. There's no evident intent to evoke any point in the saxophonist's past, or even in maintaining continuity with the Floating Points catalog.
Less is more, and more is more.

𝓼𝓲𝓷𝓴 𝓲𝓷𝓽𝓸 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓶𝓾𝓼𝓲𝓬 - 𝓟𝓻𝓸𝓶𝓲𝓼𝓮𝓼

Sam Shepherd on the composition, London Symphony Orchestra on the performance, and Pharoah Sanders on the execution. Perhaps one would not fathom a partnership between the three acts, but indubitably, the value of the end product would be prodigious. I expected a grandiose delivery from the three brilliance through mighty showcases, and even with hindsight, ... read more
there’s an unpredictability about ‘promises’ which gives this project a distinct edge. there aren’t many creations similar to ‘promises’, as it seems to be a one of a kind mix of ambient, orchestral, and jazz music.

it seems that it is challenging for pharaoh sanders to go slow, as floating points practically demands for the ambient product to be a far reaching, understated soundscape.

an instrumental drama builds throughout the album. london symphony ... read more
I have barely reviewed any new music Fridays this year and have not been that impressed with many new albums, but this day was stacked. “Promises” likely takes the crown for being the best release this week. I may like this a little more than the new BCNR.

To be honest, I barely know anything about classical music or what makes a composition great. I’ve only had some experience with third stream and music that has classical elements. However, this album inspires me to venture ... read more
How does a legend of yesterday create a summative body of work with a synth maestro from two generations ahead? Not to mention that a whole orchestra is coupled to their project. On paper, Promises was quite the promise, and the titling of the project was interesting considering it coincided with a Xiu Xiu release date, and their opus with a peculiar album cover was named "A Promise".

I've never really delved into this realm of music a whole lot. Pharaoh Sanders' "Live In ... read more
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.
Purchasing Promises from Amazon helps support Album of the Year. Or consider a donation?

Added on: February 16, 2021