”’Read this article listening to the album on Spotify.
Flying Lotus sixth album highlights his collaborative spirit featuring several tracks with names such as Little Dragon, Denzel Curry, and Tierra Whack.
Steven Ellison – aka Flying Lotus – returns from a 5 years hiatus to the spotlight after his 2014 career defining album You’re dead!. Heavily influenced by Madlib and J.Dilla in previous releases, You’re dead! showcased the evolution and maturity of Flying Lotus as a producer. Tracks like ‘Turkey Dog Coma’ and ‘The Protest’ exhibit Ellison creative genius and stood in time as innovative and boundary-pushing.
Unlike You’re dead! which the central theme was on mortality, Flamagra draws inspiration from Art, Jazz, Storytelling and David Lynch, who collaborated with a speech on ‘Fire is Coming’. The track resembles a blend of film music with Ellison’s own unique vision. It starts with the sample of a telephone followed by a unique voice, “The yellow phone on the wall started ringing”. About halfway through, Ellison cleverly mixes fast claps with offbeat drums, powerful kicks and pitched down vocals creating an eccentric and singular sonic atmosphere.
One of the greatest collabs in Flamagra is with Anderson Paak, who built a prolific career in a relatively short time-span, self-releasing over 100 tracks and he contributed vocal lines with the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Mac Miller and Chance The Rapper to name a few. A jazz-inspired sample followed by Paak characteristic voice sets the tone to ‘More’ one highlight of the album. Ellison carefully blends distorted guitars, soft pianos and upfront beats while Paak takes center stage with “That’s when I caught light of myself, gotta be something more that I can’t tell, breakin’ you down to size, there’s gotta be more to life than myself”. One of the longest tracks of the album but unsurprisingly one of the best, Paak is on the top of his game when it comes to writing compelling and catchy refrains and verses.
Geniality comes naturally due to his lineage of being the grandson of legendary Pianist Alice Coltrane, Ellison’s work draws inspiration from the freedom and experimentation of Jazz. Tracks like ‘Debbie is Depressed’ highlights slow jazz breaks topped with male vocals and moody pianos, a beautiful piece full of taste and personality. Experimentation keeps flowing with ‘Pilgrim Side Eye’ a 91-second creative extravaganza, featuring offbeat drums with weird syncopated keys and features Herbie Hancock as a collaborator.
Flying Lotus showcased his versatility as a producer since his early releases and in this album is no different. Funk and Disco vibes also find a space with the groovy ‘Burning The House Down’. The tune starts with a funky drum beat, topped with synth bass lines and plucky keys. It flows from the verse smoothly to the chorus, and performed by no one other than the legendary George Clinton. The funk keeps flowing with ‘Takeshi’ where Ellison cleverly blends eccentric sounds with funky bass lines. Thundercat collaborates on ‘The Climb’ a beautiful Disco influenced piece, infused with string arrangements in the style of Earth, Wind and Fire.
Influenced by classical music, ‘Say Something’ intelligently fuses strings and piano creating tension and release, resembling music from the 2001 Richard Linklater’s movie Waking Life. Unlike most tracks of the album, melody and harmony take center stage and the lack of a drum beat gives peace of mind and variety in such a long-featured album. Even though the average track length averages around 2 minutes, 27 tracks are hard to swallow and Ellison could have saved some tracks for a deluxe edition.
Soul searching Lo-Fi textures and offbeat drums topped with beautiful landscapes and soft piano tones fuse well together to solidify Ellison career as one of the most innovative producers of his generation. Hard to surpass You’re dead! but overall a great album that showcases Flying Lotus talent and creativity.