Release date: October 1
In the apocalyptic haze of Los Angeles, only a select few of the city’s overabundant musicians attain anything like demigod status. And if anyone can lay claim to representing the city’s strangely kaleidoscopic underground character, it’s probablyFlying Lotus (Steve Ellison). The LA-based electronic music producer extraordinaire is streaming his new album “Until The Quiet Comes” in full over at NPR. And, of course, it’s solid as always, though Ellison seems tethered to old patterns instead of consistently venturing ever outward to the event horizon of sound.
The first track “All In” is typical Flying Lotus. He fuses the dreamy, glitch-driven gauziness characteristic of Warp artists Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin with his proclivity for jazz tropes, before fading into “Getting There” with its Blade Runner-esque, Vangelis-inspired tinkling synthesizer notes. The transition here is more interesting than the song, which is a notable Flying Lotus trick. He bends and swerves in unexpected ways. The swerve works here because “Getting There” is one beautiful, beat-heavy daydream of a track with Niki Randa supplying lush vocals.
And it wouldn’t be a complete Lotus album without little sliver tracks like “Until the Quiet Comes” and “Sultan’s Request,” which couldn’t be any further apart sonically. The former is ethereal, with ascending and descending synth arpeggios, while the latter is bass-heavy hip-hop, with some Enoesque drones.
With “See Thru To U,” Lotus makes excellent use of Erykah Badu’s vocals. The percussion is simultanaeously tribal and jazzy, with Badu’s vocals rising and falling like a psychedelic clone chorus. If there’s one thing that this track proves, it is that a full album collaboration between Flying Lotus and Badu should be undertaken; that is, if the famously truculent singer could somehow manage a co-equal collaborative effort.
“DMT Song” is another short track, but don’t expect any mind-bending moments here. Yes, it’s space jazz, but it’s tame, with the DMT magic existing only in Thundercat’s lyrics. Flying Lotus rides the jazz train again with “Only If You Wanna,” which is suffused with his usual “oohs” and “ahhs” that have become such a staple of the dead chillwave carcass that they, while still beautiful, seem antiquated now.
Thom Yorke drops in on “Electric Candyman,” a song that indulges in asymmetry and hallucinatory disorientation. The beats have a pattern to their arbitrary movement. Yorke sounds quite unlike himself here, which is no doubt a good thing. The effort should sound like a Flying Lotus song, not Radiohead remixed by Flying Lotus. Laura Darlington’s appearance on the other hand makes “Phantasm” sound less Flying Lotus than Broadcast. The result is beautiful but also rather ghostly considering how much she and Lotus channel the dead spirit of Trish Keenan’s aesthetics. When Darlington sings “Ghost in the machine,” you have to wonder if they did not in fact undertake a Keenan tribute.
Flying Lotus might be at his best on “The Nightcaller,” which is an excellent cut of psychedelic and funky hip-hop. The synthesizers are rich in an analogue way. Its strength lies in the fact that for most of the song’s running time Lotus gives it forward momentum instead of just dialing things down. A little over halfway through the track he does drop the tempo, but this is a nice little touch. Icing on the cake, as it were. Flying Lotus flips this switch on its head with “me Yesterday/ / Corded,” which begins with liquid subtlety before a mid-way ramp up to propulsive, collage-driven sounds swarming around a hip-hop beat. With that second half Lotus created the most beautiful moment of the record.
And that is where he should have left the album. Instead, he fades out with the short, tacked-on “Dream To Me,” which has none of the grandeur of “me Yesterday/ / Corded,” but sounds definitively like an album closer—something to neatly wrap up Flying Lotus’s gift to the listener’s ears.