October 8, 2012 3 comments
Steven Ellison seems to be settling down. If there’s any personal conjecture to be culled from the sounds on Flying Lotus’ fourth studio album, it’s that the compositional pieces may be falling into place a lot smoother than before. This isn’t to suggest that FlyLo’s, rather expansive, Until the Quiet Comes isn’t as unnerved and frantic at times as his previous work, (2010′s Cosmagramma specifically) but Ellison has certainly hit a groove. The classic struggle for instrumental artists, though, is making that groove worth revisiting.
The major aspect that will jut out to listeners on “Quiet” is just how jazzy it is. that frenetic sense of urgency FlyLo portrays so well is channelled into spacious discord, all playing roles of respective platforms for more abrasive characteristics. “Getting There”, featuring Blank Blue’s Niki Randa, illustrates this sense of disconnected comfort zone with its glitchy progression, which is slowly subjugated by warm synths and a fat, pumping bassline. The theme is clearly mood over matter from the get go, and that’s quite the task considering that Ellison still vies for his signature morsel sized track lengths. On “Putty Boy Strut”, FlyLo glitches things up even more, but lets the background electronics play consoler, and opens up quite the fulfilling jam without telegraphing a single move.
Things aren’t all milk and honey on Quiet, though. Ellison dips into SBTRKT level distortion with tracks like “All the Secrets” and the title track. There’s a clear effort to match the same improvisational spontaneity that one would get in the audience of a 1920′s jazz lounge… A 1920′s jazz lounge perched atop a saturated cumulonimbus. The undercurrent of turmoil isn’t as pronounced as some of the lengthier tracks on 2008′s Los Angeles or his Pattern+Grid World EP, but the dreamy nature of, second Niki Randa feature, “Hunger” or the following, Johnny Greenwood co-produced, “Phantasm”, (utilizing some gorgeously restrained vocals from The Long Lost’s Laura Darlington) each grab for singular emotional depth, but offset the gravity of their sullen timbre with adventurous and, often optimistic, atmosphere.
Flying Lotus’ collaborators help greatly with that balancing act of being emotionally deft, yet expansive in tone. Erykah Badu brings, well, her signature Baduisms to “See Thru to U”, and doesn’t smother or command referential attention like, say, Thom Yorke on Cosmagramma‘s “… And the World Laughs with You”. Yorke, who contributes to this LP with “Electric Candyman”, is actually so warped and contorted his signature croon is almost unrecognizable. And, in one of my favorite collaborations here, Thundercat takes center stage on “DMT Song” to make the festivities about as dreamy as FlyLo gets on Quiet, only to give way to this wobbly, George Clinton-esque space disco refrain. Rather than having the guests bring their own motifs to his tracks, Ellison brings out the most interesting, and most fun, attributes of his co-stars to accentuate the overall theme.
In the end, though, this is all Flying Lotus captaining a ship (or, more appropriately, submarine) that’s navigating through some of his most serene yet, simultaneously, murky waters. The penultimate “me Yesterday//Corded” is one of the most haunting pieces Ellison has recorded to date, bringing together distant vocals, suffocating bass and synths that explode halfway through like atoms in mini, pitch-corrected supercolliders. Until the Quiet Comes doesn’t feature as many “in awe” moments as FlyLo’s previous albums have, and it’s actually more thoroughly represented the short film bearing the same title. But, what the album does do is define itself within the confines of its duration. The space created here is one that feels like home to all the moving parts involved, even if it is fairly uninhabitable from the outside.
Until the Quiet Comes is in stores and on iTunes now.