Release Date: Oct 7, 2014
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental Electronic, Left-Field Hip-Hop
For an album with a threat for a title (or maybe it’s just a metaphysical observation), You’re Dead is surprisingly upbeat. Flying Lotus (real name Stephen Ellison), the musical polymath who flits so lightly between jazz, electronica, hip-hop and funk as to render the boundaries indeterminable, has cast his net even wider on his fifth album, taking in influences from eastern religions, too. On his last record, Until the Quiet Comes, a concentration on the low end turned a stew of styles into a murky slop.
You’re Dead! is a radical concept album in which Flying Lotus explores the idea of afterlife through gross sonic mysticism, smelting that missing link between George Duke’s 70s fusion with the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The icon of psychedelic West-Coast beatmaking blasts apart even the progressively widening scope of his first four albums, assisted by Thundercat, rappers Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg, Herbie Hancock and the visuals of horror-manga artist Shintaro Kago. It works wonderfully: this is a carnival of imagination with an intricate balance to its sequencing and a cohesion of sound and concept to die for.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. First, there's confusion. Steven Ellison recently told Pitchfork that his fifth Flying Lotus LP, You're Dead!, came from questions such as: "What else is out there? What could happen next? What would the moment of death sound like?" You know, the Big Questions that leave most of us bemused and slightly unsettled because, even if we all have our own theories, they're basically unanswerable and the unknown is kind of terrifying.
An early form of You're Dead! was the length of a double album -- a large mass of brief tracks that, for Steven Ellison, possibly signified nothing more than his fifth Flying Lotus album. As the producer and keyboardist spent more time absorbing and shaping the recordings, the title, initially comic in meaning, gained emotional weight while he was provoked to consider his mortality and the losses he has been dealt, including the deaths of his father and mother, his grandmother, his great aunt Alice Coltrane, and creative collaborator Austin Peralta. The completed You're Dead! consists of 19 tracks averaging two minutes in length that are intended to be heard in sequence from front to back.
Steven Ellison has never been one to shy away from an ambitious task. His fifth full length album as Flying Lotus finds him concocting a musical imagining of the afterlife. A relative of Alice Coltrane, Ellison has long eagerly embraced the pan-spiritualism and affinity with the transcendent that fuelled his great Aunt’s music. Until now, Cosmogramma may have been his most confident elucidation of that philosophy.
It’s a tradition at this point. Every two years we’re going to be treated to a Flying Lotus album that changes the way we look at instrumental music. I hesitate to call it instrumental hip-hop because it’s so much more than just a collection of beats. Yet grouping it under the electronic umbrella doesn’t seem fitting either with live instrumentation playing such a crucial part of the sound.
"If all the great jazz guys heard most of the shit out right now or in the last 20 years, they'd be really disappointed," Flying Lotus recently opined in an Exclaim! interview bemoaning the fact that modern jazz artists just "aren't trying to take it further" anymore. On his new album, he's righting those perceived wrongs. You're Dead! is "post-jazz" in the same way that Fucked Up's The Chemistry of Common Life was post-hardcore; it revels in the historical timbres and tropes of the genre while borrowing modern sounds from other musical styles, which in Flying Lotus' case means the experimental hip-hop/electronic sounds that defined works like Cosmogramma and Until the Quiet Comes.
The reason why Flying Lotus is who and where he is today is because he has never been afraid to do things differently. If the hardcore Flotus fanclub (Cosmogrammites? Tiny Torturers? GNG BNGers?) had their say, perhaps 2013’s zipped-up and chucked to web Ideas + Drafts + Loops would have been his LP5; it’s certainly easier to tell it comes from the same man who debuted on Warp with the Reset EP all those years ago. But instead, we have You’re Dead!: a 38 minute journey more complex and original than anything he’s released before it.
Each subsequent full-length album that Flying Lotus has released seems to start with a personal connection that's grown more all-encompassing the further he gets into his career. From his year of birth, he moved on to the city he found his musical identity in, then out to the very structure of the universe, then deeper inside to the inner world of dreams and the subconscious. His fifth album, You're Dead!, has the stated theme of the one thing every single human has in common, and just about every conceivable style of music is prone to address: the inevitability and condition of death, and how mysterious it really is.
What happens when you die?, is the question on Steven Ellison's lips. With You're Dead his latest album, he sets out to find the answer. The record, his fifth under the Flying Lotus moniker, explores the notion of death, taking us on a Technicolor trip towards the afterlife. It's the most beautiful argument for reincarnation you'll hear this year, and any year, for that matter.
Steven Ellison likes using jazz elements in his electronic soundscapes: See 2012's harmonically antsy Until the Quiet Comes and other projects with his virtuoso bassist pal Thundercat. But on the L.A. artist's fifth Flying Lotus set, joined by Obi Wan elder Herbie Hancock and a team of shredding genre outlaws (cosmic saxophonist Kamasi Washington, ex-Mars Volta drummer Deantoni Parks and Metalocalypse guitarist Brendon Small), Ellison makes the boldest, most fully engaged fusion of the hip-hop-laptop era.
Steve Ellison, better known as Flying Lotus, makes music that sounds like a melodic car crash. Each song finds jazz, hip-hop, R&B, forward-thinking electronica, and pop smashing together, but what should sound like chaos ends up (most of the time) as a cohesive whole..
Even in LA's vibrant beat scene, Steve Ellison, AKA Flying Lotus, always shone brighter than his contemporaries. The success of his debut album, 1983, saw him quickly snapped up by Warp Records. Since his second album, Los Angeles, he's cemented his reputation by weaving elements of jazz and rich psychedelic textures into his music.As with most of what we've heard from Flying Lotus post-Cosmogramma, You're Dead fully embraces jazz from the outset.
Producer Steven Ellison's friend Austin Peralta died in 2012, and that loss is felt throughout Ellison's fifth album as Flying Lotus, which explores death and what happens next. Despite the heavy theme, sombre mood and some truly dark moments (The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep), FlyLo's unique beat-based blend of laptop sounds, hip-hop and technically impressive jazz is executed, as always, with a light touch. The tracks ebb and flow, cluster and breathe, and eschew any kind of verse/chorus formula.
The ideas behind Flying Lotus appear limitless. The 30-year-old Los Angeles producer, real name Steven Ellison, has enough experimental urges to fuel both his main project and his alter ego as an MC, Captain Murphy. Recently he’s also produced a large part of Kendrick Lamar’s forthcoming album.Yet on this follow-up to 2012’s excellent ‘Until The Quiet Comes’ it sometimes feels like there are too many ideas for comfort.
It's ultimately unclear whether the title for Flying Lotus's latest foray into experimental madness should be interpreted as a goofy threat or a moment of sublime existential awareness. What's indisputable, however, is the efficiency at which the chaotic expanse of You're Dead! burrows its way into the psyche. While 2012's Until the Quiet Comes often felt muddled and unfocused, Flying Lotus, a.k.a.
There’s a moment in ‘Descent into Madness’, a Thundercat-featuring number wedged midway through Flying Lotus’ clusterfuck of a freakout record, ‘You’re Dead!’, that things actually begin to get funny. There’s no descent that needs to take place, here - madness stepped in right from the start. It didn’t bother knocking, and it sure as hell doesn’t plan on leaving.
Review Summary: And then, the quietus cameBehind the hazy memories of rhythm and the tweaked-out faded melodies, Steven Ellison's body of work has always been defined by its exploration of life. From birth and existence, to the reaches of our imagination and our limitations; the identity of a town and that town's imprint on one's own identity, Ellison has, with a cataloger's fervor, attempted to chronicle the very fabric of the human condition. That his latest LP should arrive with a title that carries with it the very gravitas of finality after such an introspective release as Until The Quiet Comes is of little surprise; where the former chose to probe the subconscious, the latter throws light on perhaps the most suppressed of our natural urges - the understanding and need for survival in the face of mortality.
When jazz aficionados first heard Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, a vocal segment protested that what the trumpeter was doing just wasn’t jazz anymore. The use of the studio as an instrument in and of itself, the integration of elements of rock music — this wasn’t what the purists wanted to hear. Though he’s related by blood to a different jazz legend (his great-aunt and uncle are John and Alice Coltrane), Steven Ellison’s new album as Flying Lotus, You’re Dead!, rips a hole in the timeline between Davis’ 1970 release and the present.
“It’s not death I fear, it’s being comfortable in a cloud where nothing ever happens.” As profiled by The FADER and reported elsewhere over the years, Steven Ellison can come off like a bit of an introvert. He is, after all, your typical restless, perpetually unsatisfied creative spirit, learning from anyone and wanting to collaborate with everyone, but also struggling at times to fulfill his complex ambitions. He despises being marginalized (“too big to remain in the underground, too strange an innovator to gain acceptance in the mainstream”), demands new opportunities, and fears the inevitability of being pigeonholed.
Prior to its release, You’re Dead!, the fifth LP under Steven Ellison’s Flying Lotus moniker, seemed to generate the exact same reaction from critics: It spotlights death. It’s about death. It’s deathy. It reeks of death..
When Flying Lotus says You’re Dead!, he apparently means it. On “Never Catch Me,” off the musician’s new record, Kendrick Lamar raps as if in mid-rapture, tugged heavenward but clinging to earth with almost Biblical language: “And I can sing song and I can unite with you that I love, you that I like.” Rapping as Captain Murphy, FlyLo pictures a bullet in his own head; Snoop Dogg greets him at the gate, already dead himself. Angel Deradoorian’s “Siren Song” sounds like breathing, increasingly labored, then cut short.On last year’s surprise Captain Murphy record, Stephen ”Flying Lotus” Ellison wanted to alternately indoctrinate listeners into a cult and murder them.
Flying Lotus — You’re Dead! (Warp)Steven Ellison is no stranger to long-form musical meditations. His records as Flying Lotus have all been at least loosely thematic, increasingly outward but decreasingly tangible and still remarkably hermetic. He looked inward on 1983 and Los Angeles, ruminating on his birth year the city in which he found his musical identity (and which still largely earmarks his psychedelic melodramas); looked heavenward on Cosmogramma, musing on the nature of the universe like Neil deGrasse Tyson tripping on DMT; then waxed philosophical on the inner machinations of the subconscious on his fever dream magnum opus, Until the Quiet Comes.
The great beyond themes Flying Lotus’s magnificent sixth album, which rises from the scattershot plane of the LA beat-making scene and focuses FlyLo’s unmatched sound-collage skills into a major, and quite moving, contemplation of what comes after life. An immediate standout is “Never Catch Me,” with vibrant lyrics by Kendrick Lamar and a stunning video themed on funerals, resurrection, and the irrepressible play of the spirits in liminal space. But the whole blessed suite of 19 short tracks swells and ebbs with the anxiety, turbulence, and surrender of transition.
Flying Lotus You're Dead (Warp) Almost completely eschewing typical beat-heavy production for an organic experience, You're Dead represents an affecting, transformative experience from L.A.'s Steven Ellison into multiple levels of existential "crossover." You're Dead begs complete listens as a whole, with tracks just long enough to capture particular thoughts before you're pushed onward. From commencement, this progressive fusion, his fifth, requires stretching into a vortex going inward, outward, and onward. The kinetic "Tesla" pulsates bursts of electricity with the assistance of idol/pioneer Herbie Hancock.
Exploring uncharted musical terrain is as natural to Steven Ellison, otherwise known as Flying Lotus, as his sincere awareness and appreciation for the genres and artists that have preceded him. In fact, it’s that same fascination for both the history of musical trends and the possibilities of its future course, that has permitted him the continued ascension into such remote musical territory throughout his evolving career. With the 31 year old’s rhythmic competence influenced and stimulated by a choice assemblage of musicians, be it the way of blood relation (jazz icons John, Alice, and Ravi Coltrane, bassist Ernie Farrow, singer/songwriter Marilyn McLeod), esteemed production companionship (J Dilla, Madlib), or a ceaseless amount of melodically diverse visionaries, it’s of no surprise that eight years removed from his introductory release, 1983, and a little over two years following his fourth full-length project, Until The Quiet Comes, Flying Lotus has encompassed an entire spectrum of inspiration in constructing and concluding his most recent album, You’re Dead!.
In 2010, I interviewed Steve Ellison on the eve of release of Cosmogramma, his third full-length as Flying Lotus. A heady “space opera” that poured the likes of saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and bass supremo Thundercat over Ellison’s blunted, Dilla-ish beatscapes, it shifted the Flying Lotus project into new territory. “At the beginning of making Cosmogramma, I didn’t have the confidence to even work with musicians,” he grinned, “but working with Thundercat really helped me communicate my ideas… it’s started to happen.