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Flying Lotus

You’re Dead!


Oct 14, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Steve Ellison, better known as Flying Lotus, makes music that sounds like a melodic car crash. Each song finds jazz, hip-hop, R&B, forward-thinking electronica, and pop smashing together, but what should sound like chaos ends up (most of the time) as a cohesive whole.

Ellison’s latest as Flying Lotus, You’re Dead!, hones these ideas and brings them to heights he hasn’t reached before. More playful than past releases, You’re Dead! is Ellison’s most overt homage to jazz giants of the past—never before has Ellison’s family tree (his aunt is Alice Coltrane—yes, that Coltrane) been so deeply felt. Nowhere is this more apparent than on “Tesla,” featuring the legendary Herbie Hancock. That improvisational interplay carries through the album, whether it’s between a piano line and a skittering snare on the Kendrick Lamar-featuring “Never Catch Me” or between the shadowy sax and cascading synth on “Moment of Hesitation.” Even on songs with a less obvious jazz lineage (the druggy “Obligatory Cadence,” the blissed-out “Ready Err Not” and “Eyes Above”), there’s still that sense of experiment and adventure, which makes sense for a semi-concept album about death and the afterlife.

Ellison’s guests on You’re Dead! add to the mystique. Snoop Dogg does his thing on “Dead Man’s Tetris”—which, considering it sounds about one bong rip from collapsing (in a good way), is a perfect fit for the Doggfather. Ellison’s alter ego Captain Murphy shows up on a couple of tracks, and label mate Thundercat pounds the bass on “Descent into Madness.”

These disparate elements, influences, and guests could have made a mess of an ambitious album, but instead You’re Dead! turns out to be Flying Lotus’ best yet. Jazz or not, it’s an experiment that takes its place among the progressive movements of music. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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