Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes (2012)


More agreeable yet also less artistically striking than its predecessor Cosmogramma, Steven Ellison's latest tightly constructed set begins with a skittering bang. Soulful and tricky in the gut-level fashion of J. Dilla in the spaces where Ellison's generally been cerebral, "All In" and "Getting There" are shots in the arm of the modern R&B revival. Thanks to Niki Randa's contributions, they're a little sweet and at times stunningly beautiful. So were the strange, jazzy textures of Cosmogramma, but it seemed so much work to peel the layers of that record.

Hard to say where one expects Until the Quiet Comes to go after that, but unfortunately it settles into a kind of staid and habitual ambiance that's quite accessible but only makes a scattered impression. Lotus is undoubtedly a brilliant musician, and maybe the purpose of this record is to convince skeptics to miss the things they might once have written off about him. There are catchy half-songs here, lovely constructions all, but there are also tangents that just sound like someone fussing with a Wii ("All the Secrets") or like Erykah Badu covering a Wolf Parade song ("See Thru to U").

For a guy who claims to have little use for modern pop music, Ellison certainly adheres to its conventions surprisingly often -- you can be generous and say "DMT Song" owes a lot to the Free Design and Spanky & Our Gang, but it's glee-club pop now as ever, and hey, here's Thom Yorke to offer his take on Destiny's Child. Those with a taste for easy listening and jet-set lounge music will appreciate the blown-out spaceship bass of "Sultan's Request" and the whole record's mutated bachelor spy flick conceit (peaking with the mysterioso carnival piece "Hunger"), but Quiet is really summed up by the awesomely titled "Putty Boy Strut," which divides itself between the pursuance of twittering annoyance and the immersive loveliness of the smooth, the groove, etc. It's background music; for some of us, that's not bad. But all of us know it could be more.

Cosmogramma (2010)

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