Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes
Two and a half years ago we caught a crystallization of Steven Ellison floating through space. It was a brilliant starburst of burbling basslines, prickly square wave synths and clattering drum beats, hallmarks of the now trademark Flying Lotus sound, augmented by shards of broken glass in the form of harps and horns. And his fellow astronauts popped up alongside. Thundercat made his outstanding debut, Laura Darlington (wife to Alfred, of Daedelus fame) lent her pipes, and even one Thom Yorke made an all too brief cameo. It was, by all accounts a summation of the style that Flying Lotus had worked for four years to build. Heavily intricate, sample based compositions propelled forward with a hip-hop inflected focus on the perpetual motion of breakbeats, but unafraid--for the first time--to dwell in the jazzy realms of the absurd. With a wider focus than ever before, Ellison was left to make his masterwork. 1983 was the sound of the streets, Los Angeles of the city, and Cosmogramma was Cape Canaveral--a sonic launching pad to unexplored realms of aural bliss and technical virtuosity heretofore unseen in the world of the LA beat scene.
Flying Lotus' career arc is one marked by gradually knottier composition. When compared to Cosmogramma, 1983 is rough and scattershot, focused on propulsion and forward motion rather than exploring the textures as he would later delve into. So when you've blasted off into space, where do you go next? The answer for Ellison, is to deconstruct. With Until The Quiet Comes, Flying Lotus peels back some of the technical prowess that made so Cosmogramma so tangled and difficult. While it was the monument to Ellison's immense abilities as a producer--as a composer--it did have its straining moments. No such harshness here, Ellison has his feet planted firmly in dreamworld. It's apparent in the opening plinking moments of 'All In' that Ellison's focus is more inward, less on the cosmic drama of his compositions than their intimate subtleties.
Even on its most notable collaboration, 'Electric Candyman' (which features the return of Yorke), Until The Quiet Comes remains slinky and restrained. Where 1983 would club you over the head, Until The Quiet Comes presents a brooding mix of modulating keyboards, pitched down vocals and off-kilter percussion. Even Yorke won't flaunt his presence too heavily, adopting a smoky croak more reminiscent of former FlyLo collaborator Gonjasufi's cracked vocals than of the choir boy whine that Yorke has grown into over the years. It's our dear friend Thom lurking in the shadows over a beat built around the textures of his collaboration, rather than his effort on Cosmogramma which seemed to treat his voice as just another tool in Ellison's arsenal. Elsewhere the stars are allowed to shine, but never at the expense of the dreaminess of the whole of the record. Laura Darlington does her best Laetitia Sadier on the keyboard drizzle of 'Phantasm', Thundercat's nimble bass runs and sparse vocals sit right in the center of the interlude 'DMT Song' and Erykah Badu draws the rapid basslines of 'See Thru to U' around her rendering her usually spacey blend of soul absolutely stratospheric.
It'd make for an easy narrative straw to grasp at if Ellison allowed his friends to carry the show, but as in efforts past they are but small pieces of the greater whole. That's how FlyLo records have always worked, even at their most roughly hewn they've put the whole ahead of their parts, but in recent interviews Ellison has even further emphasized the importance of listening to this record front to back.
It's no surprise either, given the textural applications of this record. While not actively pushing forward, Ellison pushes his compositions in new directions, focusing his sights less on the free-jazz specters that haunted Cosmogramma and instead on the technicolor psychedelia that similarly informed the 90s work of Stereolab--of which Ellison is an avowed fan. On Cosmogramma, 'Tiny Tortures' might have found itself a boisterous brass-laden instrumental, but here the low rumble and skitter are marked not by the clarion call of a saxophone but choked out virtuosic bass runs that blend into the track rather than overwhelm. Ellison is content to sit back on Until The Quiet Comes, to slowly nod his head and let the tracks unfold around him.
It's in this restraint that Until The Quiet Comes finds its massive success. Following up what was, without a doubt, his most jaw-dropping release to date Ellison's career could've turned into a self-gratifying attempt at one-upmanship, where the only competitor is the previous record. He could've tried to get a little faster, to coax vocal performances of a little higher caliber out of his collaborators, to push the klaxon call of his synths into Rustie like ranges, but he resisted any such inclinations. Instead, Ellison struck out into uncharted territories, taking the basic elements that have shaped his landmark works and applying them to this new, dreamy and subdued affair. A brilliant starburst Cosmogramma certainly was, but with Until The Quiet Comes, Ellison might've eclipsed it.
Purchase and listen
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