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Listening to the new Flying Lotus album feels akin to an experiment concerning how the music we listen to takes us to certain places.
Throughout L.A. producer Steven Ellison’s career, his music has fluctuated between various locations of the human psyche. 2008′s “Los Angeles” felt like the forgotten memory of a party with old friends, where ghosts of hip-hop’s past danced alongside the industrial machines of 2000′s EDM scene. His breakthrough “Cosmogramma” was an exploration into the landscape of time and space. On a more primal level, the 2010 EP “Pattern+Grid World” captured the giddiness of a child in a McDonald’s ball pit, bursting with personality and excitement over the prospect of a world that is completely undiscovered.
What “Until the Quiet Comes” conveys is something less concrete; a suite of music that is the producer’s warmest and most human record yet.
The album follows FlyLo’s usual brand of dream logic, introducing ideas and only allowing them to linger as long as absolutely necessary, before moving onto something even grander. The opening one-two punch of “All In” and “Getting There” introduces sparkling keyboards and a mystic bounce that dominate the album, the former building to a heady climax before the latter drops in with the epic, tumbling beats FlyLo
built his name on.
What follows is one of the album’s first arcs, a passage of songs built on electronics that areglitchier and more Aphexian than anything Ellison has ever recorded
. “Heave(n)” slowly builds its drum pattern beat by beat, so that by the time the main hook appears a full minute in and feels more like an unraveling than just a simple drop.
“All The Secrets” surrounds its bleepy sound effects with gorgeous piano samples and distorted humming voices. The buildup to the end of “Putty Boy Strut,” the second single and culmination of the first half of the record, feels like a journey through 21st century dance music. From here, the second act takes a more abstract turn.
Swooping in with a flurry of guest vocalists, “Until the Quiet Comes” veers into more soul and jazz based territory, starting with the Erykah Badu tribe jam “See Thru to U.” Thom Yorke makes a ghostly appearance on “Electric Candyman,” his already haunting vocals cast as shadows on the walls of Ellison’s sound collages.
As Ellison soars across his nocturnal paradise and bassist Thundercat contributes his slick yet shredding licks to
every other track, the album takes on a more full-band feel than any other FlyLo release. The intermingling of handclaps, shakers, and a dozen other untraceable percussive devices all add to this ebbing world that FlyLo has created.
As true with every Flying Lotus record, there are songs that provide interesting concepts but fail to dazzle as much as the highlights. Though “Sultan’s Request” has an absolutely crushing bridge of bass distortion, the song feels as if it is bowing too heavily toward dubstep trends with its throbbing 8-bit assault. “Putty Boy Strut,” while melodic, seems shockingly minimalist compared to how dense the rest of the record is. For an album that totally throws away FlyLo’s reputation as a loop-producing electrician in favor of more fluid and full sounds, these relatively simple EDM numbers feel out of place in the overall flow.
What makes “Until the Quiet Comes” such an intensive and rewarding listen is that the whole piece functions on a level entirely greater than the sum of its parts. As the album cascades through its peaks of heavenly bangers and valleys of colorful soundscapes, the impression it leaves feels otherworldly and comforting at the same time.
The rewards of the dance numbers that stimulate the body are equal to those of the mind; when Ellison slows down the carnival ride so all the lights of the city are out in the open, it feels overwhelming how out of body the big picture slowly becomes. If FlyLo’s past records have each been projections of human emotion over varying fantastical environments, then “Until the Quiet Comes” is a journey through life and death as seen through a lucid dream.
What Flying Lotus suggests with what might be his greatest record yet is that even though the universe contains secrets yet to be discovered,
our deepest and most confounding mysteries may still lie underneath our own skin.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Goldner at Samuel.firstname.lastname@example.org.