By Alex Kavanagh
Almost two minutes into the video short to promote his new album, Stephen Ellison aka Flying Lotus appears like Charon at the wheel of a 67 Chevy, to shepherd away the dancing soul of a dead youth. The influence of cartoons and computer games is always present in Flylo’s work, but this proposes a more mature sense of the cinematic. After studying film in college, you can’t help but imagine the wonders that might await us if he decided to turn his hand to the blank canvas of feature length film-making, but for now this multi-talented artist is pouring his energies into music. And what energies.
Until The Quiet Comes is the LA-based producer’s fourth long-player and is as eagerly-awaited as any previous Warp release. It’s a more laid-back affair, certainly than Cosmogramma, shifting gears down to Brainfeeder-lounge at times. This is helped in part by the infusion of piano that Flylo learned especially for this project, and a vocal collaboration, with Erykah Badu amongst others, on the wonky celestial jazz of ‘See Thru To U’. This doesn’t mean that the trademark free-form ideology isn’t still underlying everything; it is, any given tune can still change tempo, pitch and style several times in its short duration. But as a whole, the album feels more intimate and cohesive as a result, although it’s hard to say where it really sits in the canon of his other work initially. When I come back to listen to it again in a month’s time, it’ll sound completely different. Flying Lotus is always several steps ahead of the listener.
Where many artists are burdened by the weight of expectation or their own critically-lauded earlier material, FlyLo never sounds like he’s trying to ape his own style, always pushing forward and exploring his imagination without contriving a new formula or wilfully kicking against previous triumphs. Comparisons with Madlib or Dilla are inevitable and still warranted, and the ‘Dilla Changed My Life’ tee in the video shows the artist isn’t above paying homage to his influences, but similarities to others seem slightly misplaced toward an artist with such fierce individuality.
So Flying Lotus remains the ADD genius of electronica – unable to sit still but oozing brilliance all the same. An artist in the most comprehensive sense, you get the impression that whatever he decides to do next will be just as intriguing, and just as brilliant.