Who else can transcend the confines of what is considered a “music genre” and catapult their artistic music creations into a manifestation all their own? Who else can furiously blend the constructs of multiple styles of sound into a harmoniously serene soundscape capable of injecting emotion straight into the listener’s veins? Who else transforms the idea of what could potentially be called avant garde into something palatable by so many people, that after five records is considered one of the greatest musicians of our time? Who else but Flying Lotus would title their latest opus, “You’re Dead!“?
Wedged between this world and the next, You’re Dead! catapults listeners into a realm so unfamiliar, the listening experience can feel different every time. Flying Lotus, whose real name is Steven Ellison, has always been one to emerge himself in concepts and topics and express his ideas about them through his music during the entirety of an album. His latest project is no different. The obvious theme of the record is death and whatever else is out there or after this life – a concept so abstract, yet so real molded into a set of musical notes, wavy chords and bass-heavy drum patterns. The album was supposed to start off as a jazz record according to FlyLo, but started to manifest itself into another form, and fans got to be glad that it did.
The first five tracks of the album string together so seamlessly, they might as well be a singular idea carried through different movements, coming to a finale on the album’s popular single featured hip-hop’s godson, Kendrick Lamar. “Never Catch Me” marks a period in the album that transitions from an appeasing modern jazz/experimental-fusion to a more rambunctious, upbeat world of song and dance, but only temporarily. Even so, Kendrick Lamar fits like a glove over the usually racquetball-like drum patterns of FlyLo’s orchestrations.
Then in a buttery-smooth transition, Snoop Dogg flexes over “Dead Men’s Tetris” alongside Flying Lotus’ rapper alter-ego Captain Murphy. Snoop comes through on the song, blowing away any trepidation expected for a rapper entering the realm of spitting lyrics over a modern-day FlyLo production. In an impressive set of verses, Kendrick and Snoop hold their ground and deliver stellar performances that act as embellishments to both the depth of the songs, as well as the overall concept of death heard throughout the album.
The latter half of You’re Dead! reenters the (at this point) nearly forgotten territory of experimental, jazz-fusion electronica first displayed in the opening tracks. Songs like “Ready err Not” and “Moment of Hesitation” give way to live sounding drums, bubbling horns, drops of sounds only Flying Lotus can make and other abstract elements that recall the very exploratory vibes of a late Miles Davis and, of course, Sun Ra.
Frequent collaborator Thundercat makes a great appearance, singing right along to the melody on “Descent Into Madness.” Niki Randa also pays another visit on “Your Potential//The Beyond.” Besides that, most of the features are hidden in the liner notes, most notably Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Herbie Hancock.
By the end of the album, the sounds come to reach a mystifying, psychedelic half-catastrophe/half-miracle close by way of spacey auras; distant noises fading in from ear and out the other; less-structured pieces; and numerous uses of vocals in strange, almost frightening ways. Buzzy baselines and backdrops sound out throughout the album, but their presence becomes more in tuned with the other unique musical elements present towards the cusp of the record. Namely “The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep” and “Obligatory Cadence” utilize these aforementioned effects in full, but they again find their use throughout the few end tracks on You’re Dead!.
What’s the most compelling about Ellison’s music is the fact that he can branch out as far as his mind is capable and maybe even beyond that, far beyond the borders of what a typical music listener might consider, well, “music.” Yet, no matter how far he goes, his music sounds like a soundtrack. Cosmogramma was like a soundtrack through space, Until The Quiet Comes like a dream… You’re Dead! is from the moment you die until…
That’s it – it’s different for every person. The subtle elements of hip-hop barely find themselves alive (save for the closing track, “The Protest”) beneath the overt symphonies of jazz, glitch and general “Flying Lotustry.” No matter the consequence of his experimentation, for each and every time his soundscapes of post-modern eclecticism form themselves into something so wondrously powerful, those who really, truly listen find themselves in awe of the atmosphere created in the mind of a genius like Steven Ellison, the Flying Lotus.
3) Cold Dead
4) Fkn Dead
5) Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
6) Dead Man’s Tetris (feat. Captain Murphy & Snoop Dogg)
7) Turkey Dog Coma
9) Coronus, The Terminator
10) Siren Song (feat. Angel Deradoorian)
12) Ready err Not
13) Eyes Above
14) Moment of Hesitation
15) Descent Into Madness (feat. Thundercat)
16) The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep (feat. Captain Murphy)
17) Obligatory Cadence
18) Your Potential//The Beyond (feat. Niki Randa)
19) The Protest