Flying Lotus: Youre Dead
I got into Flying Lotus when his first album 1983 dropped and from the off set his sound stood out from all the post-dubstep low-end theory inspired stuff I was hearing. It was also around the time I was listening to a lot of early Chicago and Detroit house. I was also messing with a ton of british dub-step stuff. So Flying Lotus is an artist whose sound was something very near and dear too me from the offset. Not since Dilla’s Donuts did I find myself so captivated by music driven purely by production. On this particular record I was fascinated firstly by the concept of a record that confronts the universally frightening idea of death.
When I first heard the record the intro already defied my expectations. the intro was cinematic, huge and bright with all its loud and overwhelming sound of chords punctuated by the frantic bass riffs of Thundercat .
Another thing that baffled me about this record is that it is under a a mere 38 minutes. Yet despite its short running time, the record manages to weave a narrative that explores death as reprinting a myriad of things and ideas. In a sense it celebrates death and dying not as the end but the beginning of a new stage of existence.
Part of Fly-lo’s genius is that he avoids electronic music clichés by creating soundscapes that are half live instrumentation and half computer programed beats. He manages to allow the organic and programed to interact in a way that sounds organic and fluid.
On this record he keeps songs to a minimum focusing on microscopic concepts that serve to create a larger but abruptly short picture. The narrative goes from optimistically bright on the first 5-songs and then by track, five which is accompanied by an equally capable Kendrick lamar, we are given a verbal introduction to the optimism that can exist within such a morbid fatalistic narrative. On Track 6-things take on an west-coast bounce that is part cartoonishly optimistic, but in a way that’s more black comedy than it is pure joy. On the song Ready Err Not we are introduced to a soundscape that’s sparse but morbid. On songs like Descent into madness we are introduced to a soundscape that speaks to the maddening often-frightening possibilities of the end, it sounds like an acid trip gone wrong. The whole album is a journey albeit a very personal one constructed to say a million things at once while staying decidedly entertainingly frightening and optimistic all at once. His instrumentalists all do a good job at weaving in and out of his constantly bubbling and moving soundscapes. The vocalists on the tracks function merely to hint at ideas and not to point to precise ideas. The album is steeped in jazz but also pays homage to metal and dark Adult swim soundscapes. You have occasional moments of organic erratic drumming all and the occasional keyboard riff drowning in a sea of beautifully overwhelming but bright mixture of what sound like strings and harps.
As far as musical assists he has Jazz legends like Herbie Hancock on trakcs 2 and 14, and even with that knowledge the albums contributors still contribute purely to fly-los vision. His ability to take his contributors work and make it work towards his vision speaks to his genius as a producer. You also have the work of Kamasi Washington an Ayler style saxophonist whose atonal wails and screams add to the haunting but bright nature of songs like “Cold Dead” and “Moment of hesitation”. I also read that he was listening to a lot of slayer and heavy metal , and its apparent in the contribution of guitarist Brendon Small who is featured on tracks 7 and 10.
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When I heard this record I played the whole record twice the moment I heard it in the middle of the night. I distinctly remember walking around the city the next day listening to this album completely transfixed. It’s an album that always reinvents itself when I hear it, but an album that like music by Alice Coltrane or Sun-Ra is capable of meaning many things all at once.
Rating: I recently invented a rating scale and here it is below
Out of 10 meaning perfect I give this album a hard 8.5