Album Review: Flying Lotus – ‘Until The Quiet Comes’
Forging an identity is a constant struggle for musicians, to separate themselves from their peers is integral to ensure that their music resonates with audiences. Nowhere is this more difficult then in the Electronic genre. As much as I love a great many artists in the electronic scene, I often feel they get lost in the endless number of releases produced from this abundant genre. However, one artist who stands out as an entirely distinct and original artist is Steven Ellison, better known as Flying Lotus. With his own blend of IDM, Hip-Hop and Free-Jazz, ‘FlyLo’ has proven time and again that he is one of the pioneering artists of his generation.
Flying Lotus is at an interesting development in his career, the 29-year-old producer from Los Angeles has slowly grown a strong reputation as one of the more experimental and forward thinking electronic artists currently producing music. His debut release 1983 drew comparisons to Madlib and J Dilla, earning him the title ‘The Hip-Hop Sun Ra’. Following that his sophomore album and debut on legendary electronic label, Warp Los Angeles, drew more attention to the growing ambition of Ellison. However, it was his third release Cosmogramma which attracted the most attention for Flying Lotus as he took his experimentations with Jazz and EDM to another level to produce what is widely considered to be one of the most pioneering albums of the last decade. Throughout his career, Flying Lotus has just gone from strength to strength, which does raise the question as to how far Flying Lotus can go and if there’s a limit to his creative capabilities.
Until The Quiet Comes treads similar territory to Cosmogramma, the album is composed of short-but-sweet electronic songs which create the effect of a suite, jumping from musical idea to musical idea. However, the intention is entirely different; Cosmogramma’s strength was that it took his avant-garde approach to Jazz and stripped it down to kinetic IDM, whereas Until The Quiet Comes is far smoother in delivery, while retaining the rich production which made Flying Lotus his name. FlyLo is at his best when he is toying with textures and sounds; he’ll jump from bass-heavy build-and-release electronica and then do a u-turn with a soft combination of violins and harp. All of which is filtered through Flying Lotus’ distinct electronic lens; the production of the album is spacious, but direct, working well for both passive and active listening, offering rather than forcing a song upon you – a lesson which other Electronic artists should heed.
By far one of the most distinct elements on Until The Quiet Comes is the guest collaborations on the album. Previously Flying Lotus has worked with the likes of Radiohead lead-singer, Thom Yorke, Bass wunderkind, Thundercat and Laura Darlington of The Long Lost. All three return for this album, however, arguably it is the new guests who have the most to offer. Firstly, there’s infamous Neo-Soul singer, Erykah Badu who provides vocals on ‘See Thru To U’, her contributions add beautifully soft melodies to FlyLo’s intricate and percussion heavy track. Also featured is the relatively unknown Niki Randa, who provides vocals on ‘Hunger’ and ‘Getting There’, the latter of which is a beautiful mix of syncopated rhythms and soft Rhodes organ. The guest collaborations serve to break up the electronic suites dotted throughout the album, the oscillation works well and serves to add a smooth flow to the album, befitting the pronounced Jazz-style.
Flying Lotus doesn’t really set a foot wrong on the entire 46:52 of Until The Quiet Comes; every instrument is pitch perfect, every musical shift is just where you didn’t expect the song to go, but is the only direction it should have ever gone in. The songs that stand out don’t do so by being massively different, merely by inching just ahead of the others. The songs are just as strong in isolation as they are together, but I find it hard to justify not listening to the whole album: why would you have just one peanut?
When it comes to distinction and identity, Until The Quiet Comes has cemented Flying Lotus as an artist a cut above the rest. His unwavering dedication to experimentation, as well as his commitment to striking the balance between groundbreaking and crowd-pleasing implores repeat listens. His music is thought-provoking and genuinely unique, it’s difficult to stress how monumental an artist he is. Live he is second to none, jumping from his own work to others’ seamlessly, serving to compliment both his own and their music. Flying Lotus is distinct as an artist because he can take a genre & make it his own, it will have all the hallmarks, but none of the clichés. On Los Angeles he took instrumental hip-hop to a new plateau, on Cosmogramma he took EDM to the breadth of its abilities & now on Until The Quiet Comes he has taken free-jazz to a place no-one could ever have predicted.