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Live Review: Flying Lotus

Oct 18, 2012

Around 8 pm on Sunday I shipped myself out to Hell’s Kitchen to see Flying Lotus, one of my current favorite electronic artists, play at Terminal 5, one of my least favorite venues in NYC. I was banking on Flying Lotus’ set being as strong as ever to soothe the palpable stress caused by an hour-long subway trip and a music hall that is notorious for being shaped like an actual hallway.

I was in luck, because FlyLo’s set was monstrous, and near-perfect. I was, however, in no way soothed by it. Sandwiched between two transparent projectors, he orchestrated a grimy trap-music nightmare of an EDM concert. Fields of multi-colored tangrams and stars seemed to shoot off the stage, synchronized perfectly to each thundering percussion hit the Los Angeles producer (who had donned a metallic, reflective hood and chest-piece for the show) played.

The most visually compelling piece of the performance was his intro: a dazzling animation of polygonal shapes rotating through shades of blues and reds as they came together to form the artist’s name.  The words “FLYING LOTUS” then broke apart as if shattered in slow-motion by the creeping, progressively heightening volume and impact of the first song he chose to play, label-mate Hudson Mohawke’s “Furnace Loop.”  This wouldn’t be the last time FlyLo pulled from HudMo’s library; he later played TNGHT’s “Higher Ground” (which he abruptly paused to announce to the crowd that he “fucks with this TNGHT shit”) and “Bugg’n,” or, more specifically, Captain Murphy’s remix of “Bugg’n,” titled “Shake Weight.”  The latter drew a considerable focus, as Flying Lotus is rumored to be behind the mysterious Captain Murphy project.  The rumor seemed to all but be confirmed as friend and fellow LA artist The Gaslamp Killer hopped into FlyLo’s DJ booth and howled “Brand new Captain Murphy shit!” into the microphone.

The mix later included Kanye West’s “Mercy,” which faded into Clams Casino’s “I’m God” production as the dual projector screens transported the audience to a slowly-shifting desert, an apt change in visuals.  Soon after that, the show closed with Crizzly’s grinding dubstep remix of Waka Flocka Flame’s already hugely abrasive and highly addictive “Hard in the Paint.”  Previous acts and friends of the DJ moshed on stage during the closer in celebration of Ellison’s supremely successful show, and, as it turned out, his birthday.

The DJ set and the accompanying light show were stunning, but definitely mark a significant change in Flying Lotus’ career. His incredible new album, “Until the Quiet Comes,” is a huge achievement in electronic manifestations of jazz music. Similar things have been said about his previous releases. But his new (or at least newly acknowledged) interest in hip-hop production and the ever-growing spotlight on trap music illustrates the portrait of a well-mannered equestrian who had always truly wanted to play rugby, or a classically trained multi-instrumentalist who strongly aspired to be a hip-hop producer. Works for me as long as he continues to create and spread the best of both sub-genres.

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