By David Ballou
Steve Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, has been crafting electronic dreamscapes and beats for over a decade now. His music has a certain cinematic quality, and you may find yourself whisked away in a swirl of clicks and cymbals. If his previous album, Cosmogramma, took you to an alien world far in the future, then his newest work, Until The Quiet Comes, is a hot summer night on that planet.
I find it very difficult to discuss Until The Quiet Comes without referencing its predecessor. Both albums are true albums; songs bleed together, melodies and rhythms resurface and Thundercat, a Brainfeeder alum and frequent FlyLo collaborator, is everywhere. Both run about forty-five minutes in length, while inexplicably feeling much longer. You’ll blink and find yourself halfway through. The album begins with a whirl of keyboards, bells and cymbals, establishing a palette that will be drawn from frequently for the next twenty minutes or so. This atmosphere continues through the classic Flylo beat“Getting There” (ft. Nikki Randa). Our journey through Ellison’s dreamscape continues through a maze of polyrhythms, pianos and bass.
This atmosphere persists until running headlong into the massive, bass heavy “Sultan’s Request”. This track is a great example of dubstep and other heavy bass genres’ influence on hip hop production. “Putty Boy Strut” wouldn’t have seemed out of place on Pattern+Grid World, Cosmogramma’s follow up EP, and is a pretty good synthesis of everything Ellison has done up to this point in his career. Erykah Badu surfaces shortly after before disappearing to give Thundercat his shining moment on the title track “Until The Quiet Comes”. I dare anyone to not laugh at “DMT Song” (ft. Thundercat), the conclusion to the first half of the album.
The second half some of the most adventurous and, at times, unsettling music Ellison has ever released. The Radiohead influence is obvious, and recognized, with guests spots from Thom Yorke (Electric Candyman) and Jonny Greenwood (Hunger ft. Nikki Randa). The tension and drama of these two tracks resolves beautifully into “Phantasm” (ft. Laura Darlington), an otherworldly electro-ballad of sorts. I hate to say it but the un-credited vocal sample on “me Yesterday // Corded” sounds just like Justin Vernon. This track sticks out from the rest of the album, and not necessarily in a good way in my view. Ellison concludes much in the same manner that he ended Cosmogramma, with an other-worldly hip hop beat that really makes you wonder why Kanye West wasn’t in the studio with Flying Lotus, rather than messing around with all his friends putting together a really bad mix tape (obligatory rag on Cruel Summer).
Another masterwork from L.A.’s beat king? I’d say so, and while this effort has flaws that its’ predecessor didn’t, Ellison must be considered the undisputed modern master of the album as an art piece. What other artist can create a sound so futuristic and simultaneously comfortable? Now if we could only convince him to play some shows in the southeast.