The 405 Record Club: Edition #2
Welcome to the second edition of The 405 Record Club!
- Name: Flying Lotus
- Album: 'Cosmogramma'
- Year: 2010
- Listen: Spotify
Sandra Croft is the publicist for the NY-London based label Cascine. She likes old photographs, puppies, dessert and fine waters.
Tom Walters is Assistant News Editor at The 405. He also writes about emerging weirdo-pop and twinkly punk tunes on his blog, Can't Hear My Eyes. A total sucker for riot grrrl bands, C86-infused melodies and Wall's Solero ice lollies.
Christian K. Breedlove is the Staff writer/Jack of all trades for The 405. He's an avid fan of cold weather, cold coffee, cold beats and even colder women.
Ben Mainwaring is the owner of Lazy Acre Records, a billionaire philanthropist playboy and a lover of cats.
Adam Libonatti-Roche is the Editor of 7BitArcade. In his spare time he enjoys the odd bit of gaming, cooking and bacon sandwiches.
Danny Wadeson is the film editor for the very site you're now reading, and head of production for creative agency Hi Fly Nest. He enjoys long walks in the park, staring at trees and talking to the squirrels.
Dresden Leitner is an Events Management graduate living in Manchester. She is currently part of running the Manchester-based music event organisation Headgone. She likes music and fashion; plus attempting to cook.
What did you think of the album?
Tom Walters: Cosmogramma, although widely critically acclaimed at the time of its release, flew under my radar a bit. I'd heard a couple of tracks, most notably the extremely hyped Thom Yorke collaboration '…And the World Laughs With You'. I can't remember the first time I'd heard it, but the second time was at the end of an episode of True Blood, and although it was fairly fitting for the end credits of the show it didn't grab my attention fully. But it was with that same track that I decided to begin my journey through 'Cosmogramma', and I'll confess; I'm not the biggest lover of Yorke's vocal, so it wasn't the ideal starting point. However, my mind didn't change so much after I'd finished my first listen. That being said, the album as a whole was pretty enjoyable; it certainly prods the imagination and makes for a great record for zoning in on a task, or say, a sci-fi reading session, if that's your kinda thing…
Adam Libonatti-Roche: I loved it. I'd listened to Flying Lotus before but I had no idea that his work had been featured on Cartoon Network before finally making it out into a real full blown album. To be fair the train toots on opening track 'pickled!' should have given it away.
Dresden Leitner: I really love this album, been a fan of Flying Lotus for a couple of years, so it was nice to get to re-listen to this again as an old favorite.
Sandra Croft: It's got a very infectious energy. Flying Lotus is the master of adapting the flow over a variety of tones and moods. In many ways it reminded me of one of my favourite records ever – Fennesz's Endless Summer, another record that weaves willfully discordant and sometimes harsh aural elements together to make something with a mood of abiding vivacity and sunniness. Over the course of 45 minutes there are peaks of explosive energy. You can choose to listen to it casually in the background as ambient music, but also on closer inspection it yields all kind of weirdness and eclectic sounds that prevent you from ever getting bored with the music.
Christian K. Breedlove: I thought that 'Cosmogramma' was really well done in that all the sounds that you thought would come next in each song, usually happened but not in a predictable way if that makes any sense. The entire album had a constant progression of its sound. It's certainly not my usual cup of tea but its constant variations on sounds and beats of the electronic nature made it endearing.
Danny: Eclectic. Genre, mind, and body bending. A psycho-aural delight of unhinged tendencies verging on the wilfully transcendental.
Have you heard much of his work before?
Adam Libonatti-Roche:Apart from listening to Cosomogramma a few months ago, I had never listened to Flying Lotus before. If anything, Flying Lotus sounds like something that DJ Yoda would put together live on a mixing desk, however it is such a refined sound at times that a DJ could not do it.
The music of Flying Lotus is basically the mind of a sugar enfused child as at times it is all over the place but ultimately it makes sense.
Ben Mainwaring: I haven't listened to a lot before. I'm very sceptical of hype. The breathless adoration of a bunch of bloggers is normally enough to send me running. I might check out more. It reminds me a lot of Tim Exile (who if I'm honest I prefer - more focussed, more attention to the song rather than the "sounds". Im presuming this is a Warp record? Certainly sounds like one.
Tom Walters: Yeah, I heard his work before mostly through the hype on the blogosphere. I'm sure his new record with garner the same great expectations, but it'll probably just pass me by to be completely honest with you.
Dresden Leitner: Yes, I've listened to quite a bit of Flying Lotus since he began to get majorly hyped a couple of years back. I'd heard a couple of Flying Lotus songs and then saw their performance at Bestival in 2010, and was really intrigued, so went back and listened to his back catalogue. If you look at a lot of electronic beatmakers around at the moment, artists such as Evian Christ, you can hear how much Flying Lotus and such like pinoneers have influenced this new generation by fusing genres creating this weird, dream-like electronic hiphop.
Sandra Croft: I've have to admit that I've only ever paid attention to this album. I think I have a couple of his albums kicking around on my iTunes but this is the one that I've listened to the most previously. I've seen him play live one or two times, each time I've really enjoyed it. He's a really fascinating performer, something you can't say about a lot of laptop twiddlers. He's in constant motion and played the energy of the audience. In terms of his actual work – rediscovering this album I can completely say that I'll be paying attention in the future. He creates a sense of texture and a soundworld through his music that comes across as effortless, I like that very much.
Christian K. Breedlove: I've heard of his work previously, mostly around the time where he released his Los Angeles LP but I hadn't listened to him all that much. I've always found him to be someone that I should listen to more but I didn't get around to it all that often at all. He's one of the best in his genre.
Danny: A few bits and pieces, free downloads and the odd album stream here and there. Before checking out Cosmogramma in its entirety my conception of Flying Lotus was of a fairly beat hungry producer dabbling mostly in cutting up sounds and keeping you on your toes. The kind of music I enjoy on an intellectual level but never really find myself being drawn in, or back to.
What genre would you call it?
Tom Walters: You know, I have no idea… is there an actual word to describe a million different bleeps and bloops blipping and blapping? In a nutshell, it's just incredibly experimental electronica.
Adam Libonatti-Roche: Does it have to be a real genre? If not I'm turning to my genre tombola and picking one out. I call it karatecommericalstep as it compiles hijinks and beat hijacking to create a dance rhythm that you thought would not be possible to dance to. The song 'Zodiac Shit' eptomises that with it's sudden beat changing that you think would be impossible to dance to. Belive me, it's not impossible. It's more than possible. Only recently I head nodded with intent to this album whilst seeing off a beer.
Ben Mainwaring: Kinda breaksy-electonica? Its very schizophrenic - lots of these little snippets and random bits of samples floating in and out. Its intense at times - all this flitting around the place and bombarding your ears with more noise. IT'S. JUST. LIKE. BEING. FUCKED. ON. DRUGS.
Dresden Leitner: Tough one to call, I've always thought that Flying Lotus are very hard to categorize. Electronic hip-hop/trip-hop? There's a lot of jazz influences in the album in particular. The music has always been pretty experimental.
Sandra Croft: It's an elaborate kind of digital jazz. I discovered that Flying Lotus' aunt is Alice Coltrane – then it made all kinds of sense.
Danny: Trip-hop yo. Or sample-core. Perhaps it's nothing more complicated than nouveau acid-jazz.
Did you opinion of the album change over time?
Tom Walters: Sadly, no, my opinion didn't really sway. I suppose if I was a bit drunker and ready to dance with some hipsters I might've enjoyed it a bit more.
Adam Libonatti-Roche:Yes. It grew on me a lot. To start with I found it hard to concentrate with the hyperactive nature of the tracks.
Dresden Leitner: Cosmogramma is one of those albums that changes so much throughout, the album goes through so many different phrases; the separate songs work so well together and flow perfectly to create a proper 'album,' rather than the usual concept of several great songs supported by weaker ones. The sounds in the earlier section of the album are certainly harsher and more complicated, progressing into a more jazzy vibe at the end. What is clear is FlyLos talents throughout the whole album, and his strong talent for fusing different genres. Its one of the most cohesive albums I've ever really listened to.
Sandra Croft: Definitely. I heard this album when it first came out a few years ago and I considered it a difficult record. It didn't slot easily into the type of music I loved at the time. I think the biggest realisation I've taken from listening to it then vs now is that it's important not to give up on the difficult albums. They serve as barometers, showing the limits of your taste and understanding; here's where the music gets too noisy; here's where it gets too atonal; this is the place where I have no idea what is going on. And while difficult records measure a boundary in your own music taste, they also measure how your understanding changes between listens. The way you hear music is continually shifting, and many of those changes are unconscious. When a difficult record finally makes sense, you understand how you yourself have expanded.
Christian K. Breedlove: No, I wouldn't say so. It's an immediate album in which you know what you're getting, and it hits you in the face within a track or two whether you enjoy it or not. I liked it to begin with and I still enjoy it, quite so.
Ben Mainwaring: Not really. I dont tend to change my opinions lightly. Especially over the course of a mere couple of weeks. As a child, I formed long lasting opinions on all matter of things - horses, rugby league, opera, the seeds in chopped tomatos, lumpy gravy - nearly 30 years later these prejudices are still firmly in place. Imagine me if you will, like a bearded indie pop Mount Rushmore. You could come back in 100 years and it might have frayed around the edges but its still basically the same thing. In fact I quite like the idea of carving my face into a rockface. If anyone can help me achieve this please do get in touch.
Danny: Well yeah, my opinion was a constantly evolving thing. Oh wait, you mean, like, after I'd finished listening to it? Well, either way, Cosmogramma is definitely one of those releases that's meant to trickle deep down into your sub-conscious and tickle your synapses long after you've actually finished making sense of the beats as the happen. Which is only ever a good thing.
Best track - and why?
Ben Mainwaring: Honestly - this kind of genre jumping craziness all melts into one for me after a while. It's like when you fall asleep on the remote and are flicking through the channels by accident cos your asleep on the remote. I was amazed when I looked at Spotify and realised I was nearly through the album. It felt like I'd only got through a couple of songs.
Adam Libonatti-Roche: Probably 'Do the Astral Plane' as it's the most chillout track on the album. Also as a web programmer, I need a steady beat to work too. This track had it all.
Dresden Leitner: Its pretty hard to pick a favourite track on the album as they seem all so intertwined and complimentary; supportive of each other, but if I had to single one out it has to be MmmHmm. It is reminiscent to me of kind of a futuristic pop song. Lovely chilled vocals and an ambient vibe reminds me of a hot hazy summers day. Such a vivid track and the video is amazing; crazy cosmic visuals that enhance the floaty & smooth melody of the song even further.
Tom Walters: Best track is 'MmmHmm' featuring Thundercat, because Thundercat rules. He makes 'experimental electronica' too, but it's dip-dyed in sunshine and happiness and is more likely to make you get your groove on.
Sandra Croft: Do The Astral Plane – I like that from nowhere, it becomes this techno track played by instruments you'd usually associate with jazz.
Christian K. Breedlove: My favorite track had to be 'Dance Of The Pseudo Nymph' and it wasn't even really close. The beat behind it is one of the best I've heard in years, it's rough, the drums are on point, it's just musicially superb. It reminds me of DJ Shadow mixed with a Galaga Machine on top of a pinball machine that's broken. You really can't ask for anything better.
Danny: Easily Nose Art. And not just for the pun. It's a fantastic, considerately short slab of mad bass underpinned by just the right amount of melody and madness. Just a pin-point precise stab of playfulness.
Worst track - and why?
Adam Libonatti-Roche: Don't actually think I have one.
Sandra Croft: I don't know if there are any truly terrible tracks on this. The album is masterfully sequenced. I never thought that any of it was out of place or 'filler'. Each track flowed beautifully into the next, like he's the conductor and the orchestra in one.
Christian K. Breedlove: My least favorite track was 'Satelllliiiiiiiteee' mostly because it feels like the only "filler" track on the entire album. There's a million things that a song can be but to be boring, is an absolute killer. It's flat out bad. The album isn't perfect but this track was anything but perfect. Pretty terrible, actually.
Tom Walters: 'Intro/ /A Cosmic Drama', because who has an intro four songs in and uses two slashes?
Ben Mainwaring: See above really. The last couple dragged a bit for me - that was where I really wanted a Tim Exile style build up on one song for ten minutes to really focus the mind and the ears.
Danny: It's all relative I guess, and there weren't any stand-out awful tracks for me, but 'And the world laughs with you' (feat. Thom Yorke) was pretty underwhelming for all its potential, a little too similar in its scope to some of the stronger tracks, and just generally more filler than killer.
What did you think of the artwork?
Tom Walters: Yeah, I liked the artwork – it really is the perfect visual representation of the sound you'll find inside.
Adam Libonatti-Roche: I didn't get it. Could've mistaken it for a goatsie
Dresden Leitner: The artwork for the album works well with the whole cosmic theme that runs throughout; it is eccentric and open to interpretation, deceptively effortless. The artwork resembles a planetary set up; again hinting of the cosmo-linked album.
Ben Mainwaring: Meh
Sandra Croft: There's a cosmic theme that runs through the record and I think the artwork does a great job of conveying that. On first impression, it reminded me of a near-death experience…moving towards the light…. It's intricate and whole, yet also mysterious with multiple opportunities to insert your own meaning as the music on the album becomes coherent.
Christian K. Breedlove: The artwork is amazing and I don't even know why it is, but it is. I'd really like to know why I'm so drawn to it and who designed it, actually.
Danny: Kind of cosmic and groovy dude. I dig that minimalist representation of the universe within and without us!
Would you recommend it to a friend?
Adam Libonatti-Roche: Yes I would, but it would have to be a specific friend who is open to new things. Take that comment as you will.
Tom Walters: It wouldn't be the first record that sprang to mind.
Ben Mainwaring: Possibly. Actually - there is a kid in my sons class at school who has problems focussing his attention and when he gets angry he starts stomping his feet on the ground and charging at people like a Rhino. This might be ideal for him actually. Short snappy bursts to focus his attention and just when he starts to get angry and into rhino mood - along comes a slinky little sax break to help him chill his rhino beans.
Dresden Leitner: Have already done so! A lot of my friends are also big fans and followers of Flying Lotus.
Danny: Definitely, to the one or two serious pursuers of different and interesting sounds I know - that haven't already jumped on Lotus' not inconsiderable bandwagon.
Sandra Croft: Yes, definitely – it's not for everyone but I think a lot of people will find things to love here. Especially fans of beat-based music. Flying Lotus carves something surprising and welcome out of those familiar elements.
Christian K. Breedlove: That depends, I'd recommend it to a friend if they liked anything similar to this but I couldn't see recommending it to any run of the mill music fan. A lot of people simply won't like it but if you enjoy music that's similar to this, I think you'll love "Cosmogramma".
Anything else you'd like to mention?
Tom Walters: Any track that's called 'Dance Of The Pseudo Nymph' has got to be worth a mention.
Adam Libonatti-Roche: On playing it out loud in my office, a colleague asked me if the CD has got stuck.
Danny: I love break beats mixed with sax. It's just too good a sound. This obscure jazz hip hop group Jafrosax nailed it years ago and I love that Flying Lotus knows the deal on 'Arkestry'. Overall this is a real journey of an album, one that I felt booted me off the beaten path once or twice in order to really make me take in my surroundings, like a slightly over-zealous tour guide in short shorts. Oh, and it's always nice to know that someone is flying the flag for interesting song-titles still. 'Zodiac Shit' and 'Dance of the pseudo nymph' probably take the biscuit.
Ben Mainwaring: I cant stress enough how serious I am about this Mount Rushmore thing. If we could get it anywhere near Ryan Flemings house so he see's my face every time he wakes up in the morning and it freaks him out then that would be even more perfect. I don't know - I'm spitballing really. Sculptors - if you are out there, get in touch and we can talk.
Sandra Croft: It's a really surprising album. It surprised me. It'll definitely surprise you. The thing about it, I always set out thinking I'm not going to like it. It sounds like a mess at first. Then something clicks and you kinda fall under its spell.
Christian K. Breedlove: Can I just say that we need more songs with table tennis samples and other samples of that nature? Imagine a song made with one of those Nerf footballs that whistle. Oh yeah.
What would you rate it out of ten?
Dresden Leitner: 9/10
Sandra Croft: 8 out of 10. It's a complex yet completely and satisfying listening experience.
Ben Mainwaring: A five. Maybe a six.
Adam Libonatti-Roche: I would give it a strong 8 as listening to it really depends on the mood you are in. Doubt I would play it at a dinner party. But then I don't hold dinner parties.
Tom Walters: 5/10
Christian K. Breedlove: I'll give Cosmogramma an eight out of ten.
Danny: A solid 8/10, as I'm a real sucker for this kind of stuff, despite me not having really given him the attention he deserved from me in the past..