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Friday, December 26, 2014

[2014 in review] #5 - FLYING LOTUS - "You're Dead"

I can't understand those people who basically only listen to strictly hip-hop music. Music as a whole is my number one love, and though hip-hop is by far my favorite genre but how someone can be musically satisfied by only listening to rap music is for me absolutely mind boggling when there's so much great music from a wide range of genres out there - jazz in all it's incarnations, blues, rock, heavy metal and industrial, and even some classical music. As a true music lover I am mad happy that we got artists like Flying Lotus and the artists on his Brainfeeder label pushing the boundaries of modern electronic music by taking a page from the past and moving forward into new terrority. As for FlyLo I've had my eyes on him since his "Cosmogramma" album in 2010, but it was when  the grandson of legendary jazz pianist Alice Coltrane dropped his tripped out "Until the Quiet Comes" in 2012 that I truly fell in love with his music. After letting the 2xLP set live on my turntables and on my Android phone for a long time, I was soon after starting to fiending for new music by the DMT fanatic. For me the release of the follow-up to "Quiet", beautifully titled "You're Dead". FlyLo has more than repated that same feat of greatness  again, without repeating himself. "Until the Quiet Comes" is pretty close to a perfect album, and i strongly feel that this new LP is it's sister album as it shares many similarities yet it's evolved and features a lot of new tracks. 

Now in 2014, Steven Ellison, also known a Flying Lotus, returns with his sixth album, tenth if we're counting Extended Plays, "You're Dead" on October 7, via Warp Records. While "Until The Quiet Comes" was a laid back, psychadelic journey into the mind with high free jazz, jazz fusion and electronic hip-hop overtones, "You're Dead" pretty much continues where its predecessesor left off. The 20 track collection plays out more like a suite than the type of albums we are used to hear these days, be they instrumental or not. Many of the songs are only one or two minutes and throughout the whole 40 minutes LP almost every feeling is represented in the most beautiful way - whether it be straight up disonant hardcore shit (the powerful "Tesla"), laid-back  music of extreme longing like one of my personal favorites "Coronus, The Terminator", heavy free jazz bangers ("Cold Dead"), the percussion and Rhodes brilliance of "Moment of Hesitation". Pointing out each song is definitely pointless as the entire album revels in front-to-back brilliance and personally I would say that this is FlyLo's finest full-length album to date. One of the main reasons for this, is that FlyLo is here taking his production to the next level - while previous albums has mainly been mainly sample based, "You're Dead" is a mixture of Lotus' sample wizardry and a host of live musicians that he has invited to the sessions. The 19/20 tracks suite (depending on which version you have) clearly has a sonic thread running throuhgout them, wihtout ever coming off as monotone. The jazz elements are way more pronounced here than on the previous FlyLo albums - so much that in fact this is the first album of his that I would feel comfortable putting in my jazz album collection. He has here gathered the usual suspects like bassist/vocalist Thundercat, sweet voiced Nikki Randa, string conductor Miguel Atwood-Fergusson, but there's also a host of legendary jazz artists adding color to the album. All these artists appeared on the previous LP as well, though not to the same extent, but on "You're Dead", Ellison takes the jazz and hip-hop approach a step further. One of my all time-favorite artists of all time, pianist/keyboardist Herbie Hancock adds his magical Rhodes touch on the hauntingly beautiful "Tesla" and "Madness Of Hesitation". while jazz guiartist/bassist and keyboardist Jeff Lynn add some color to "Stirring" to great effect. These legendary artists appears simultaneously in FlyLo's world with rising stars like superb sax player Kamsai Washington who really add a lot of jazz texture to standouts such as "Moment Of Hesitation", "Cold World", "Turkey Dog Come", and "Moment of Hesitation". 

Production is absolutely flawless throughout, the way Flying Lotus uses samples and live instruments of abstract melodies, disonant studio trickery, distorted vocals, melodic basslines, Rhodes, agressive saxophones and of course the slamming drums. As I stated before this abum really defies labeling, but might be closest to free jazz, jazz fusion or experimental electronic music. But hip-hop heads will definitely not be dissapointed either, as FlyLo creates some abstract but very dope hip-hop joints. The  first single "Never Catch Me" featuring an outstanding verse from Kendrick Lamar, while Lotus' Quasimoto like alter-ego Captain Murphy gets busy on a couple of tracks and even Snoop Dogg makes an apperance on the absolutely brilliant "Dead Man's Tetris". Whatever you do don't sleep on this album!

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