Flying Lotus, AKA Steven Ellison fifth album is all about death as you might have imagined from the title. Flying Lotus has always made music that is very out there and eccentric, he’s become one of the most celebrated beat makers in Hip Hop and as a producer in experimenting in a wide variety of genres. For this album Flying Lotus has dived further into his jazz influences than ever before and comes out with an album that feels so much more fluent because of it. If miles Davis were alive today this is the music he would be making, the most true jazz influenced album in years, it almost sounds like ‘Bitch’s Brew’. It’s Indebted to so much but takes it in it’s full form and embraces it so create something so distinctively FlyLo. He is an auteur of sorts.
From the outset of this album you can here that Flying Lotus has once again take full advantage of the album platform. With so many of the songs on here spanning just over a minute, and with there being 19 tracks, it isn’t an album to just listen to the one song, it’s a journey. In an age where the leaders of the biggest radio shows in the world are declaring the album dead, Flying Lotus has managed to make a concept album with big names such as Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg.
To take us on his journey of death and the afterlife Flying Lotus almost makes this album flow like a play with acts. The first four songs blend together seamlessly with them all sounding barbaric with horns, synths, guitar leads, keyboards and frantic drums pushing them all forward. The act ends with the pianos coming in for the brilliant Lamar collaboration ‘Never Catch Me’. A song where Lamar paints a picture of himself as someone who has seen death and has been close enough feel it coming for him. It’s a ruthless beginning that’ll make your head spin in a way that you would imagine the first part of dying would make you feel. Much of this album has a sound of exploration as they paint pictures in your head of the character going through the afterlife. It’s the subtleties in this album that take you on a journey sonically, for seconds at a time you will hear influences of things such as tribal sounding percussion and unsettling uses of horns. There’s a rich sonic landscape on this album that everyone can find something in. It’s hard to pinpoint specific tracks even to recommend, it’s just an album to be taken as a whole piece, from start to finish.
Although Flying Lotus himself started the album as almost comedic (and it does show on songs like the Snoop Dogg collaboration ‘Dead Man’s Tetris’ which uses very interesting gun shot samples) this album does carry some emotional weight for him personally. Ellison is 30 years old and has witnessed the death of both of his parents, and his close friend that hit him very hard. He also had a scare after he had just finished this album, when randomly he collapsed on his hotel floor. Death surrounds us as people and is an inevitability, FlyLo has made an album almost celebrating some of his experiences and thoughts on it.
There’s never much of a resolve to this album, it’s all very unsettling right until the more serene ending. It begs to hit the replay button and start the album all over again. Because like life and death, it’s not the ending that everyone is fascinated about it’s the journey that got you there.