Release Date: May 4, 2010
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental
Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, has covered an awful lot of ground in a short period of time. Like many other people, I first happened across his music during late night channel surfing. Many of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim commercial bumps have been scored by his music since 2006, but it wasn’t long before his snippets took fuller forms, and connections with artists like J Dilla and the Stones Throw roster opened the door for his debut, 1983, that same year.
No other artist seems as intent to abide in a state of flux as Flying Lotus. Locating himself at boundaries blasted open by the collision of hip-hop and future dub, Steven Ellison’s aesthetic is difficult to pinpoint discursively, less by design than by the very nature of his working method. With Cosmogramma, Ellison makes a decisive leap forward into the realm of Afrofuturism, abstracting and recombining the past as a cathartic reflection site for future permutations, inscribing thrilling new vectors of sound in the process.
Cerebral and endlessly beguiling head trip that it is, Flying Lotus’s Cosmogramma is also pretty easy to listen to, whether you choose to take a casual soak in its atmosphere as it spills out of your stereo speakers or slip on a pair of headphones for a more studious jam session. There’s just one rule: Marvel all you want at Steve Ellison’s endlessly inventive arrangements, but don’t try to guess where he’s going next. There’s simply no left-brain logic flexible enough for what Ellison’s doing here, with every track an unpredictable collage of solid beats and transitory textures, to say nothing of the remarkable distance covered over the course of the record.
To paraphrase Joseph Goebbels, when I hear the words 'space opera' I reach for my revolver. Or perhaps, given the way in which Flying Lotus reflects a modern vision of the same combined spiritual ritual and synapse-frying freak-out expressed by Parliament-Funkadelic, the weapon of choice should be a bop gun. It’s staying holstered, though: while in science fiction the term denotes melodramatic claptrap, and its musical relation the rock opera is always melodramatic claptrap, FlyLo’s so self-described third album is a serious proposition.
MC transcends jazz, hip-hop, space and time The third album from Los Angeles-based producer Flying Lotus (nee Steven Ellison) is an engrossing exploration of sonic possibility. Featuring contributions from Thom Yorke, vocalist Laura Darlington, bass producer Thundercat and jazz instrumentalist Ravi Coltrane, it’s a study in contrasts: provoking but reassuring, kinetic but focused, clean but clattering. Ellison belongs to an international collective that stretches from the depths of L.A.—where he, Daedelus, Nosaj Thing and Gaslamp Killer, lit by the glow of their laptops, host a weekly club night known as Low End Theory—to the industrial heights of Glasgow, the territory of experimental production queen Mary Anne Hobbs.
Talking to us over the summer about his then-forthcoming album, Steven Ellison said he felt like he was progressing as a producer. "I'm finally getting to the point where I can make the kind of records... that I wanted to make when I was younger, things that I dreamed about making," he told us. That sounds modest-- he's been persistently pursuing a singular vision for years now-- but his first two albums did share common traits with his forebears.
To see Flying Lotus perform is to understand the careful orchestration that marks his interpretation of hip-hop. Equipped with a laptop, sampler, and drum machine, Steven Ellison -- the man behind the moniker -- manipulates his tools to create textured electronic compositions. But don’t let the stuffy language fool you. Along with the technical elements of his music is an infectious energy and style.
For 26-year-old Steve Ellison's deservedly hyped third album, Flying Lotus loosened the reins and set out to make Cosmogramma, which his label, Warp, promoted as a space opera of sorts. More of a long-playing, cohesive listen than the prior year’s excellent Los Angeles, which felt like a collection of insular, Dilla-inspired beats, Flying Lotus evolved into a forerunner of his own personal genre. On this, his most far-out release to date, he incorporates a thicker amount of live instrumentation (horns, strings, bass, guitar, and even harp) with his laptop manipulations, and branches away from hip-hop.
Acosmogram depicts the known limits of the universe, something Steven Ellison, who works as Flying Lotus, seems determined to take a musical tour of. Using the bass and beats of his 2008 album Los Angeles as his launch pad, Flying Lotus launches into new territories; P-funk, nu-yorica and house. Add in a dabbling in the spirit of free jazz and one might expect this album to be a wilfully discordant aural trial.
First impressions leave the most lasting effect on anyone but are they necessarily always the best? Many times, someone can gather their feelings, thoughts and progressions in order to try again and in turn, succeed or in other cases, improve. But everything is contingent on that one person’s own ability; what exactly would they achieve in even returning with something else? But the world is filled with possibilities and they’re all in the realm of possibility for anyone. To think that this is still the young producer from Los Angeles that got his start by crafting juicy, booming dubstep cuts for Cartoon Network to use in whichever way they deemed best (those commercials continue to impress and affect with every new idea), seems like such a wonderful pay off on what life has to offer.
Cosmogramma proves itself to be as mind-meltingly boundless as a black hole. Adam Kennedy 2010 Timing dictated that when Flying Lotus, aka 26-year-old Californian producer Steve Ellison, announced himself to the wider world with breakthrough 2008 opus Los Angeles, all manner of lazy pigeonholing followed with depressing predictability. Lumped in with the post-dubstep crowd at a time when the wonky sub-genre was being liberally applied to any oddities, he garnered numerous additional comparisons to sadly departed hip hop boardsmith extraordinaire J Dilla.