Flying Lotus Showcases His Sonic Palette On ‘You’re Dead!’
Exploring uncharted musical terrain is as natural to Steven Ellison, otherwise known as Flying Lotus, as his sincere awareness and appreciation for the genres and artists that have preceded him. In fact, it's that same fascination for both the history of musical trends and the possibilities of its future course, that has permitted him the continued ascension into such remote musical territory throughout his evolving career.
With the 31 year old's rhythmic competence influenced and stimulated by a choice assemblage of musicians, be it the way of blood relation (jazz icons John, Alice, and Ravi Coltrane, bassist Ernie Farrow, singer/songwriter Marilyn McLeod), esteemed production companionship (J Dilla, Madlib), or a ceaseless amount of melodically diverse visionaries, it's of no surprise that eight years removed from his introductory release, 1983, and a little over two years following his fourth full-length project, Until The Quiet Comes, Flying Lotus has encompassed an entire spectrum of inspiration in constructing and concluding his most recent album, You're Dead!.
By virtue of the unpredictable and imaginatively spastic nature of Flying Lotus' musical capacity, what was once outlined as a full-length jazz album, increasingly became something much more disparate. In enlisting the contributions, and to a large degree, guidance of the likes of jazz-funk pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, and bass prodigy, Thundercat, whose potent musical pedigree rivals Ellison's, the direction of You're Dead! transformed into a progressively married electronic-jazz-rock-funk-hip-hop accumulation. Not to say that FlyLo hasn't explored such contrast before, but You're Dead! seemingly merges all of his past experiments, and creates an unconventional, yet optimal portal for his peculiar manufacturing of expressionism.
The album's 19 tracks swiftly elapse, beginning with four numbers that are dynamic in explosive instrumentation, with drums and bass leading the way and setting the tone for the atmospheric mood of the project. We are then readily introduced to the two most hip-hop fixated records on You're Dead!, separately featuring present and past Los Angeles rap luminaries in Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg, with the first single, "Never Catch Me", featuring K. Dot flexing his lyrical prowess in accordance with the conceptual purpose of the album. You're Dead! spends its remainder weaving in and out of instrumental electro-jazz numbers, incorporating odd-time signatures, a multitude of rhythms and frequencies, and a heightened presence of seductive vocals, including FlyLo's self-appointed alter-ego, Captain Murphy. Throughout its entirety,You're Dead! remains as bold and daring as the underlying theme of it — experiencing death through musical consumption.
Tupac Shakur once said, "Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender." While Flying Lotus composes You're Dead! around the idea of the demise of existence, and invites the listener to contemplate the inevitable, the irony within its composition is that the music itself couldn't be further from succumbing to boundaries or expiration. As the 38 minutes of You're Dead evolves, the album refuses to concede to any definitive avenues, remaining eccentric and peculiar throughout, yet fluid with a purpose, and ultimately full of life.
The genius of Flying Lotus, which has been invariably present throughout his preceding releases, but most especially on You're Dead!, is that he has an incredible ability to both illustrate and extract exceptional amounts of emotion, without saying much at all. An accomplishment that only the finest and most resourceful of producers have been able to fully materialize. In each passing project that FlyLo unveils, with You're Dead! acting as the ultimate testimony to the notion, it becomes clearer that he is exactly that: one of the finest and most innovative producers that the current landscape of music has to offer.—Michael Blair