Flying Lotus ‘You’re dead’ (Warp) 4/5

flying-lotusMusician extraordinaire Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) has an impressive and unusual musical pedigree. His great-aunt was none other than Alice Coltrane, his grandmother Marilyn McLeod (who regularly composed songs for Motown artists including Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross) and his uncle Ernie Farrow was a jazz musician who played under Yusef Lateef. The club-oriented music contained on this latest CD therefore encompasses a myriad of styles from Detroit house and L.A. hip-hop through to jazz-fusion of the more adventurous variety (Return to Forever, Weather Report) and subtle incursions into acoustic jazz. The fact that the musician has managed to cram all of this into just under forty minutes is a testimony to his skills of condensing diverse genres and still coming out with a distinctive voice. A previous album from 2012, ‘Until the Quiet Comes’ featured the vocals of Erykah Badu and Thom Yorke. On the latest recording, multi-keyboardist and musical polymath Herbie Hancock tickles the ivories while major league rappers Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar make brief appearances. One feature of the album is how successfully the relatively brief and largely instrumental pieces (vignettes might be a better description of them) that average just a couple of minutes merge into one another, thereby giving the impression of a long musical collage. The album works best for this writer on the moodier and more downbeat numbers which have more soulful beats, jazzy keyboards and a layered texture whereas the uptempo numbers have an element of the frantic dub-step groove to them and are sometimes not easy on the ear. Radio 6 DJ Mary Anne Hobbs described Flying Lotus as the ‘Jimi Hendrix of his generation’. For this writer, however, if Miles Davis were still alive and remade ‘Bitches Brew’ for the twenty-first century to reflect new trends in black American urban music, then it might just sound something like this. An intriguing musician to listen to for sure, but by no means easy listening and requiring repeated listens to soak in all the contrasting influences.

Tim Stenhouse