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"Until The Quiet Comes"

8.5/10
Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
27 September 2012, 08:57 Written by Chris Lo
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When Flying Lotus, a.k.a. Los Angeles native Steven Ellison, first started making waves on the international stage with his debut LP 1983, his incredible talent for creative beat-stitching was instantly apparent. But equally apparent was the debt that the silken grooves of 1983 and its follow-up Los Angeles owed to the mighty J Dilla, the king of the hip-hop instrumental, who tragically succumbed to a rare blood disease just as FlyLo was starting to make a name for himself in LA and beyond.

Since then, Ellison’s career – which encompasses madcap mini-samples for surreal US cartoon maker Adult Swim, a wide and eclectic range of collaborations, production work and a host of rapturously-received LPs and EPs – has carried him far beyond his initial influences and to the farthest edges of the experimental frontier. 2010’s Cosmogramma was the real paradigm shifter, an electro-prog-math-jazz epic that revelled in its explosions of psychedelic colour and riotous imagination. The album was almost aggressively creative, sending a clear signal that Ellison had transcended his hip-hop roots; a slave to the beat no longer.

After catching a glimpse of the infinite beyond on Cosmogramma, Flying Lotus was never going to shut himself back into the box on his fourth LP Until The Quiet Comes. But while his latest album shares Cosmogramma’s visionary scope and complex layers, this is no sequel. Where Cosmogramma imbued its tracks with a sharp-edged restlessness, Until The Quiet Comes radiates a lush stillness that justifies Ellison’s own description of the album as “a collage of mystical states, dreams, sleep and lullabies”.

The album’s opening section flows with a twinkling grace; wispy spirals of sound evoking the sleep-state’s serene unshackling of the subconscious. ‘Getting There’ is a slow-motion wave of winking wind-chimes, brought to life by the sighing croon of Niki Randa’s lounge-jazz vocals. The muffled low-end rumble and corroded guitar lines of ‘Tiny Tortures’ create a submerged, weightless effect, while ‘All The Secrets’ introduces a piano line that brings to mind James Blake, and Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’, before it softly collapses into a swirl of woodpecker beats and arcade sound effects.

But anyone who’s endured a night of tossing and turning will know that losing consciousness isn’t all soft pillows and sleepy Shangri-la, a fact that is reflected in UTQC’s more bizarre out-of-body moments. ‘Sultan’s Request’ presents a stripped-back beat and a hard-edged, morphing bassline that Warp Records labelmate Hudson Mohawke would be proud to call his own, and the jerky rhythm on tracks like ‘Putty Boy Strut’ and ‘The Nightcaller’ create harder shapes within the album’s misty soundscape.

For an artist with such a singular vision, FlyLo has a surprising track record as a prolific and generous collaborator, and UTQC gives him another opportunity to prove how well he works with others. The album incorporates team-ups with a varied laundry list of friends, including Thom Yorke, Erykah Badu and Laura Darlington of Daedelus side project The Long Lost. In every partnership, Ellison pulls off the impressive feat of catering to his guests’ strengths while never losing sight of his own sound. ‘DMT Song’ is an otherworldly drifter that contains some of the album’s most emblematic lyrics (“I never want to come back/I belong where I am at”), but it also makes room for the distinctive contribution of FlyLo’s Brainfeeder buddy Thundercat, a virtuoso bassist and unique electronic artist in his own right. Similarly, Erykah Badu’s wraithlike vocals on ‘See Thru To U’ are backed by the kind of psych-soul vibes that have become her calling card. In a world of disappointing collaborations that yield less than the sum of their parts, Ellison provides a masterclass in seamlessly blending different styles into one coherent world.

Flying Lotus doesn’t need his latest album to prove that he’s a visionary, genre-defying artist. He’s already done that with Cosmogramma. Until The Quiet Comes proves nothing, and has nothing to prove. Instead, it shows Ellison in full control of his formidable powers, and confident enough to rein them back when the moment demands. In doing so he may have dialled back on the relentless invention of his last record, but he’s also created his most organic and enticing world to date. Like the realm of the subconscious, Until The Quiet Comes is intimate and unfiltered; an undiscovered country, wild and waiting to be explored.

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