Tag Archives: steven ellison

The Best Albums of 2014: #6 Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

Miles Davis would “literally be mad” at what jazz has become. Steven Ellison (Flying Lotus) said in an interview in Salon. In that interview, he goes on to talk about how he operates under the mentality that Miles Davis could come back to life at any moment, so he wants his music to be presentable to Miles and “make him chin stroke a bit” when the time comes.

This is a lofty idea to apply to one’s music and it’s a testament to how carefully Ellison has crafted You’re Dead! It’s a nu-jazz masterpiece, a revivalist record, a free-jazz exploration and a futuristic journey through jazz and hip-hop all-in-one. This is the most ambitious concept album of the year and breaks new ground into a fusion of sounds we’ve never heard before.

To be honest, it’s not even my favorite Flying Lotus record (Until the Quiet Comes doesn’t get the credit it deserves as being far and away Ellison’s best work), but You’re Dead! is the product of yet another creative vision of Ellison’s, a concept he’s thought about since he started making music and he’s pined over crafting this record to come across just right for the last 2 years.

Ellison brought in collaborators from jazz great Herbie Hancock and best buddy Thundercat to Snoop Dogg and even Kendrick Lamar. Working with Lamar was something Ellison has wanted to do since GKMC. He’s even described his disappointment in not being a part of Kendricks album in this fantastic piece in The Fader by Andy Beta. He made sure that when he finally got a chance to work with him on his own album, that he made the most of the opportunity. The result, is perhaps the best track of the year, in “Never Catch Me.” Ellison starts with vibrant keys and a rattling snare, the bass drops in with Kendrick’s flow and the rest is history (or at least will be). A marvel of time signatures, clap-snares, a stand-up bass and guitar all functioning perfectly into a song about tip-toeing around death and the after-life.

As he always does, Flying Lotus introduces a visual element to his music which adds more depth to his song and in this case, ties in the central theme of this magnum opus. Watch the video for “Never Catch Me”:

It’s masterful, and it’s the album’s apex coming early before spiraling into sonic musings on the nature of death, staring it in the face and pondering one’s existence. On “Turtles,” we feel like Ellison is walking through a dark cemetery, with the ominous tribal drums as the cryptic overhead soundtrack. On “Ready err Not,” he’s become a vermin and is weaving through bodies as their lives flash before him. There’s more visual cues on the graphic video and it’s clear that Ellison’s interest is piqued by death. It’s an existential concern for him and it’s sparked his curiosity, his creativity and his art.

This is a dark, dark album from Flying Lotus, but it’s exactly as he wanted it to end up. You’re Dead! is a manifestation of the inner-workings of the most actualizing creator in music today. He’s one of the most incredible modern producers and no one has traversed hip-hop, electronica and now jazz as fluently and with such complexity as he. He is an explorer of sounds, who has innovation in his genes and oughta make multiple generations proud with how he continues to tell the story of a seismic shift in prevalent musical styles.

Top 18 Albums of 2012: #3 Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes

I’ve found that i didn’t need the immersion into Until The Quiet Comes that i go through on the day of writing about an album to know everything that makes it incredible; namely its auteur, LA’s Steven Ellison (more commonly known by his stage name, Flying Lotus.) FlyLo’s music has grown with me and i’ve grown with his music. FlyLo is a contemporary, in every sense of the word and his music straddles the line between music and contemporary art. His finger is on the pulse of all that is modern, trending and seemingly great in music. But he has a way of crafting it to become his own, never towing a line and always remaining unique.

You have to witness the art form that is Flying Lotus’s music. You have to hear it, you have to see it and you have to get a taste for the method to his madness. Once you see this all, you’ll understand how tirelessly FlyLo works to craft his art and create an experience that is unlike any other and a manifestation of his vision.

The first taste we got of Until The Quiet Comes was this short film (think of it as a 3 minute music video) by Kahlil Joseph for the album’s title track and its nothing short of a cinematographic masterpiece:

FlyLo is a master collaborator. He’s one of the few people to work with Thom Yorke, as he did on ‘And the Whole World Laughs With You…’ off of 2010’s Cosmogramma (My #12 Album of 2010). This time around, he features the gorgeous Erykah Badu on ‘See Thru to U’.

He worked with with Director David Lewandowski and actor Elijah Wood for this stunning video for ‘Tiny Tortures’:

The intricate bass loops and Wood’s mystifying expressions are impeccable. And the artist works…he continues to work. This video for ‘Putty Boy Strut’ directed by Cyriak Harris, is a robot’s story:

He’s careful to craft everything precisely the way he envisions it. To work with the right people to visually capture the feel of his sound. This guy is the fucking future. He takes visual and sonic elements that are prevalent, but put his own spin on them. Everything he does is unique and seemingly groundbreaking, but it’s like he’s not even trying. With his ear to ear grin plastered on his face, he keeps cranking out spin-off projects that complement his albums. Wanna know what he does for his live show? Surprise, it’s freaking original as hell too…He’s created an audiovisual arts concept (alongside visual artists Timeboy and Strangeloop) called ‘Layer 3,’ where he’s playing inside of a visual vortex, but you have to see it to believe it. Here’s a doc produced by the Red Bull Music Academy, where he talks about how he likes to “dabble in things that feel magical”:

My friend Dallas always says “Visualize: Manifest.” This is the embodiment of everything Flying Lotus does. Everything is possible for Steven Ellison. Somehow he even had time this year to virally launch a villainous alter-ego named Captain Murphy, in the spirit of notorious hip-hop villains like Quasimoto and Madvillain. He kept his true identity a mystery while garnering over 20,000 Twitter followers, before dropping the Duality EP (stream it or download it for free here) and revealing himself in front of an LA crowd at his first show in late November…

Flying Lotus blows my mind. His ideas have no limitations. He’s a highly creative person and somehow manages to articulate everything that’s on his mind through his music and art. This is the future of music. He’s had his finger on the button for years and it just keeps getting better and better. If the future of not only hip-hop and electronica, but of all music and art is in the hands of Flying Lotus, it’s a world that I want to live in.

#3 Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Come


Note: Until The Quiet Comes is not on Spotify. I’ve communicated with FlyLo regarding when it’ll be up, and he said “soon bro.” While you wait, feel free to entertain yourselves with the above videos and tracks or check out his website for more cool shit: http://flying-lotus.com