With his fourth full-length album, Californian beat producer Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) returns from his expansive and psychedelic trip into jazz of Cosmogramma, and decides to bring things back down to earth with an album that feels a bit smoother on the ears.
Flying Lotus’ production lies at the intersection of a multitude of genres including jazz, hip-hop and IDM, along with a futuristic flare combined with an extreme attention to very unique textures and sounds. With just a couple of albums in a few years he has really revolutionised the world of instrumental hip hop and illustrated the roots of the genre. He has lent his artistry to a lot of other albums and has put on artists like Gonjasufi and constant collaborative partner Thundercat, whose album The Golden Age of Apocalypse is brilliant, via his label Brainfeeder Records.
While a common criticism of his work is that it tends to lack coherence – an understandable viewpoint – I look at this as peering into the ’sketchbook’ of a great artist. It may not seem incredibly developed but it’s still very personal and raw.
Until the Quiet Comes doesn’t have the same gritty hip hop vibe as Los Angeles; right now Flying Lotus is still hovering over ‘jazz-town’. Neither is it the wondrous, dense and intergalactic adventure that Cosmogramma was. This album is most definitely a more minimalist and scaled back production.
He relies more on his raw, simple, straight forward production chops; his rhythms, syncopations and synthesiser work pull the album together with a slight jazz fusion edge. This album is longer than FlyLo’s previous two but it still feels more ‘down to earth.’ You do have an occasional spot of the very atmospheric and psychedelic on this LP, like the Thundercat vocalised track ‘DMT’ and the track ‘Hunger’, which actually features some arranged instrumentation from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. This is definitely not a ‘Cosmogramma 2’. This may disappoint a few fans but what’s an even bigger disappointment is that there’s nothing particularly new this time around.
Until the Quiet Comes starts inconspicuously, with track ‘All In’ being a notable exception as the instrumentation is twinned with plotting synthesisers to produce pretty psychedelic tones. FlyLo layers all of this rhythmic mayhem into a wall of sound but Niki Randa, who contributes vocals on that track, really pierces through all of it and sounds fantastic.
But once the song ‘Heave(n)’, starts and the beat comes into play it feels like I’ve been here before with Flying Lotus. There are other tracks on the album which I feel the same way about like ‘Only If You Wanna’ and ‘Putty Boy Strut’, although ‘Putty Boy Strut’ has to be the cutest sounding release from Flying Lotus yet.
The track ‘Tiny Tortures’ is incredibly enchanting and the title track has a huge over-modulated feel, with rising chords which create a moving atmosphere. Yet ‘See Thru To U’ – one of the tracks that dropped first – struggles and is far too hectic due to the excessive layering of what was originally a nice vocal contribution from Erykah Badu; I’m not even sure that the beat even warrants or compliments a vocal contribution.
Thankfully, the ambition I look for from Flying Lotus returns at the end. Thom Yorke’s work on ‘Electric Candyman’ is chilling; great track with a very compelling moodiness to it. ‘Hunger’ and ‘Phantasm’ feature arresting vocal performances from Niki Randa and Laura Darlington respectively, with FlyLo’s string arrangement that swirls around the vocals on the latter track being brilliant. The two part track ‘me Yesterday // Corded’ follows and these four songs make up this album’s longest, most developed and impressive tracks. It’s just unfortunate that they are bunched up at the end.
Overall for me, this LP is just a ‘collection of beats’’ which is nothing new for Flying Lotus but typically his vivid sonic visions and adventurous spirit more than make up for it. This time however these two aspects of his personality were not as strong. I can see some fans actually preferring the minimalism and simplicity of this album over ‘Cosmogramma’, but personally I herald ‘Cosmogramma’ over this.