Flying Lotus

Flamagra

Warp

May 24, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


As the 2010s draws to a close, there perhaps hasn't been a more prominent influence on electronic music as Steven Ellison (aka Flying Lotus). His Brainfeeder label has amassed an incredible wealth of talent producing jazz-influenced, forward-thinking electronic music which has come to define the decade. One only has to look at his longtime collaborator Stephen Bruner's (Thundercat) success as further evidence of their success, along with their work with decade-defining rapper Kendrick Lamar. 

FlyLo's output for this decade alone shall earn him legendary status, from 2010's innovative Cosmogramma to 2012's stunning Until the Quiet Comes and 2014's remarkable You're Dead! However, Ellison has slowed down in the second half of the decade, after working on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly and Thundercat's Drunk, he's concentrated on his label's film division, resulting in his horror-comedy flop Kuso

While the film may have been unsuccessful, it did show Ellison's taste for the Lynchian. David Lynch has been an apparent influence on Ellison his whole career, and it is his appearance dead-center of Flying Lotus's first record in five years, Flamagra, that allegedly tied his latest patchwork all together. FlyLo's sixth record is his most diverse and psychedelic yet, and Lynch's spoken-word piece "Fire is Coming" holds the album's central theme of a "fire on a hill that never goes out."

Various characters in the guise of guest appearances come along to interact with the fire in some way or another, featuring Anderson .Paak, George Clinton, Little Dragon, Tierra Whack, Denzel Curry, Shabazz Palaces, Toro y Moi, and Solange. These guest spots tend to reflect each individual artist's style, such as a classic George Clinton funk classic or Toro y Moi's dream-pop. Tierra Whack and Denzel Curry's respective "Yellow Belly" and "Black Balloons Reprise" come as a particularly powerful one-two punch in the album's core.

Flamagra's biggest influence, however, is, by far, Stephen Bruner. One only needs to take a cursory glance over the album's credits to see Bruner composes and plays on almost every track here. While Bruner has always made his presence known on Flying Lotus' work, Flamagra feels like a direct relative to Thundercat's Drunk, an album which equally levelled-up on its scale and ambition. At a whopping 66:57, it's easy to get lost in Ellison's latest offering, and not in the dreamy, psychedelic manner of his previous, trimmer work. While longer tracks such as "Takashi" take the listener on an epic jazz-fusion journey, the album's second-half really begins to sag under its own weight. It's an interesting recent trend that established artists of this decade are releasing much longer records (see also: The National, Vampire Weekend) and more often than not, it serves to harm the piece, rather than the alternative. (www.flying-lotus.com)  

Author rating: 7.5/10

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