Flying Lotus, alias of Los Angeles producer Steven Ellison, has come a long way from creating beats for Adult Swim.
His 2006 debut 1983 had listeners (read “stoners”) saying, “This sounds really cool, man, but I think if I had like a synth and Garage Band or some shit …” Those same listeners shut their mouths and turned their speakers up two years later with the release of Los Angeles, knowing that FlyLo was clearly doing something which exceeded their capabilities (e.g. “Camel” and “Golden Diva”) and Call of Duty had an exciting new soundtrack for them to play along to.
As a man among electronic boys, Flying Lotus set a standard for electronic artists including himself when he released the infinitely more cerebral and complex Cosmogramma in 2010 to critical acclaim. When talks of a forth LP were hitting the press, the question became: “Where could he possibly go from Cosmogramma?” It seemed that one more dissonant snare-tick, washed out synth or Thundercat bass-riff could have risked sonic implosion.
However, Until the Quiet Comes is just as complex and engaging as Cosmogramma, but far less aggressive in its presentation.
It’s also a much more introspective record – a absorption of mood and atmosphere as opposed to witnessing a projective explosion. On “DMT Song,” Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner sings “I can take you to a world where you can spread your wings and fly away.” That carefree bliss stands true for a handful of tracks including the aforementioned, but a good deal of the songs feel darker and weighted in mood, as if the listener is less flying and rather suspended, sometimes comfortably, in an isolation tank in an altered state of mind.
The album is almost narrative in its structure. The first six tracks are a seamless collective of jazz, hip hop and electro that establish a tone and increase in complexity; the quick and anxious “Tiny Tortures” perhaps being the inciting incident. “Sultan’s Request” functions as a crisis, jarring the listener with it’s harsh synth, which sounds as though it was lifted from an original Nintendo Prince of Persia level. The climax lasts from the honey-sweet “DMT Song” through the beamed-up mothership jazz funk of “The Nightcaller” and “Only If You Wanna.”
Flying Lotus also stands out in his ability to attract featured artists that are impressive and unafraid to play to FlyLo’s fiddle.
Most notable is Brainfeeder cohort Thundercat whose bass provides a frolicking backbone to more than a few of the tracks on Until. Thom Yorke makes a hilariously creepy reappearance on “Electric Candyman.” In a wraith-like whisper he echoes Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name,” before the percussion devolves into the erratic beat of a tell-tale heart.
Erykah Badu fits right in on “See Thru to U” complete with a jazzy beat and skittering cymbal-work and the song ends with an eerie a capella that one wouldn’t find on any of her solo records. With the aid of Niki Randa’s soft vocals, “Getting There” is easily the best hip hop track on the album. Finally, Laura Darlington, the only collaborator who has been with FlyLo since his first full-length, is a perfect match for “Phantasm” with her gorgeous, wispy delivery.
If Until has a failing, it is one that befalls every “anti-album;” songs are not allotted enough time to breathe. This album has no shortage of head-bumpers or finger-snappers, but some of the less-than-three minute tracks feel stunted. The listener yearns for extended versions of tracks like “Heave(n)” and “All the Secrets,” both of which coincidentally have a hip hop Amnesiac feel. Instead, the listener is forced to accept an intelligently packaged portfolio of skeletal sketching in the place of human form.
Until the Quiet Comes is an album shrouded in mystique. Numerous spins answer some questions but reveal countless others. Its moodiness and wide range of genre exploration, instrumentation and tonality assure a spot as one of the most impressive albums of this year, and though some fans of Cosmogramma might find Until to be a “retreat record,” it would be difficult to argue its enhanced accessibility over the former.
Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes tracklist:
- “All In”
- “Getting There feat. Niki Randa”
- “Until the Colours Come”
- “Tiny Tortures”
- “All the Secrets”
- “Sultan’s Request”
- “Putty Boy Strut”
- “See Thru to U feat. Erykah Badu”
- “Until the Quiet Comes”
- “DMT Song feat. Thundercat”
- “The Nightcaller”
- “Only if You Wanna”
- “Electric Candyman feat. Thom Yorke”
- “Hunger feat. Niki Randa”
- “Phantasm feat. Laura Darlington”
- “me Yesterday//Corded”
- “Dream to Me”