Flying Lotus Flying LotusUntil The Quiet Comes
Maybe deep down in Flying Lotus’s soul, there lies a desire to reinvent jazz. It is widely known that he is related to Ravi and Alice Coltrane, whose house he lived in when he was young, where he learned to love music; countless times he has referred to jazz with more respect than he has to abstract hip hop, which is, after all, the stylistic framework in which he has always placed himself, ever since he debuted in 2006 with the label Plug Research and that first puzzle of fractured rhythms, “1983”. But over the passing of albums, Steve Ellison’s way of constructing songs has become increasingly nebulous texturally, and his pieces barely have a solid foundation to stand on anymore: he has made each of his albums into a shapeless flux of melodies, rhythms and atmospheres that sustain each other like a net (or a rhizome, as post-structuralists would say). They contain dispersed elements of all the genres that, in one way or another, form a part of Flying Lotus’ language: jazz, of course, but also African rhythms, astral hip hop - astral in the tradition of J.Dilla – nocturnal, lyrical electronica, avant-garde pop, boogie and soul. Flying Lotus doesn’t seem to want to give up any of the genres that he has fed from, and his albums have unconsciously shown themselves to be ambitiously all-inclusive, in perpetual mutation. In short: a sound with attention-deficit syndrome, in which an idea bubbles up, plays for seconds and then quickly moves on to something else.
If “ Cosmogramma” (2010) already worked that way, chopping up more beats and primitive outlines into a compact, very vivid sound pulp, “Until The Quiet Comes” seeks to continue on in the same vein and even take it further, without trying to. It includes a total of 18 cuts in just over 45 minutes; it’s hard to keep in mind a single idea that prevails over the rest, and unlike “Los Angeles” (2008) – a more organised work, with longer, more focused pieces, in which one perceived that the aesthetic goal was to prolong the lineage of psychedelic, experimental hip hop and add in some influences from English dubstep– here what works is the album as an indissoluble whole. Maybe if we took out a fragment, or a simple bassline like the one in “Sultan’s Request” (which is huge), or a bit of a vocal, the whole thing wouldn’t fall apart. But “Until The Quiet Comes” makes more sense the more information it accumulates inside it.
It’s understandable that this might be dizzying for a lot of people. It isn’t easy to tolerate music that gives you a little taste of honey and then quickly pulls the spoon away (even if the next spoonful is even sweeter). It’s very interesting to pay attention to the duration of the cuts: although in the end some of them come close to the four-minute mark ( “Hunger”, “Phantasm”, and of course “Me Yesterday / Corded”, which cheats to pass the mark, since it’s a double song), the majority of the segments of the album barely last longer than a minute. Flying Lotus doesn’t hesitate at all to cut a progression if this allows him to keep attention on the variations and off-the-cuff improvisation that are, after all, the essence of jazz. In reality, the jazz aesthetic here is not the main priority: as was also the case with many parts of “Cosmogramma”, FlyLo samples double bass and sax (the final bassline of “Putty Boy Strut”, and especially the one in “Until The Quiet Comes”, are pure Ron Carter, not to mention “Only If You Wanna”, bebop tangled up with celestial voices, as if we had gotten Miles Davis and Oneohtrix Point Never together in the same room), but the most important thing is the construction, the map that Ellison sets up, more than the materials that he uses to do so. Independently of whether there are furious scales and throbbing bass that hark back to the origins of free jazz, the whole album in itself IS jazz. It is a dialogue between the parts, between the vocal samples and guest voices, such as Thom Yorke - who doesn’t seem like himself and does seem like a D’Angelo imitator drowning in synths ( “Electric Candyman”) - Erykah Badu ( “See Thru To U”), Laura Darlington and Niki Randa. It’s also a dialogue that could be endless. The album ends when it comes to “Dream To Me”, but it could go on, like a symphony of the universe.
Compared to “Cosmogramma”, it seems like a minor album –the ambition of the former was almost arrogant– but if we limit ourselves to the balance between the aim and the results, “Until The Quiet Comes” is a much more balanced, sincere album. Flying Lotus may have shrugged off the weight of responsibility of showing that he can live up to his family, to history, and to the fingers who have pointed to him as one of the fundamental electronic artists of our time, something that was already made clear with “Cosmogramma”, with its virtues and its weak points. Now, FlyLo appears as a human, as someone who wants to create for himself and not for others, who has discovered a unique path of his own, fresh and unexplored, and he is ready to follow it as far as he can. The most interesting thing, in terms of the future, is that the trip is only just starting out. We have seen the beginning and now we just have to wait, to hope that without following a straight line—which would be repeating himself—the Californian will decide to lose himself along the back roads leading him towards the new and unknown, to unexplored corners of his own cosmos. If “Cosmogramma” was a map of the universe and “Until The Quiet Comes” the understanding of the map, the next step will be to burn the map, throw away the compass and to travel, just travel.