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May 10, 2010 | by  | in Music |
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Flying Lotus– Cosmogramma (Warp Records)

One night at the beginning of last year, my girlfriend and I were lucky enough to experience two of the best live acts beginning with the letters “F” and “L”. One was Fleet Foxes. The other was Flying Lotus. But these two acts could not have been more different. Fleet Foxes, while nonetheless brilliant, played their songs pretty much as they are on the record. Their tightly structured baroque folk-pop doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for improvisation. Flying Lotus, on the other hand, is an artist whose entire career is built on improvising. His work is constantly changing and intangible. Even on his records his ‘songs’ are loosely structured. He is more like a modern Jazz musician than a DJ or ‘producer’, but I would hate to label him as such.

Ellison is great-nephew to the late and great John and Alice Coltrane, and he effortlessly carries on the family tradition of trailblazing and humble meditation on the greater things in life. Cosmogramma could easily be seen as an extension of that family history—particularly John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme—of rumination on the cosmic and divine. Probably the most striking thing about this album is its humbleness. It doesn’t assume to know anything or to provoke any concrete emotions from the listener. It is the sound of a man who is searching, looking upwards, but not necessarily knowing at what. This sense of mystery of the unknown permeates throughout. Even the guest vocals of Thom Yorke on ‘…And the World Laughs With You’ are employed as an instrument of that feeling, as his spliced voice coos “I just need to know you’re out there somewhere”. That’s a good signifier of the album: it’s so wholly engrossing that who’s doing what is beside the point.

Cosmogramma features more live instrumentation, including hallucinogenic string arrangements, electric bass, sax (courtesy of cousin Ravi Coltrane), and harp (an ode to his harp-playing aunty?). All of this, plus his J Dilla-esque production, results in an even richer sonic palette than on his full-length debut, Los Angeles. It’s one of the most musically satisfying albums I have heard in a long time. Dubbed a “space opera”, it certainly puts you in that general frame of mind. Hell, just have a go on the application he made for this thing and you’ll understand what I mean! Its fascinations with the cosmic aren’t purely superficial, though, and it ends up being both a cathartic and sobering listen.

Although he didn’t gather a huge crowd when I saw him, he still had a massive grin on his face the entire set, bopping his head vigorously along. I may just be naïve but I’m fairly sure he didn’t have help from any substances—it all came from him and his love for his craft. On our way out my girlfriend thanked him and they shook hands. He looked straight at her, giving her a smile of genuine appreciation for having come and thanked her back. I’m pretty sure he’s an atheist but he is nothing if not a man with spirit.

4.5/5

For those low on funds (or who have expended their monthly gigabyte diet) this online application is a good taster for the album and way more fun than it should be: http://www.flying-lotus.com/fieldlines

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Comments (11)

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  1. ithinki'mgonnacome says:

    euuuuuuuuurrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhh

  2. ACTUALLY says:

    eeeeesh calm down mate it’s just some buzzy tunes

  3. Because of the hype surrounding Yorke’s contribution on “…And the World Laughs With You,” I’ve avoided meditating on the song’s sonics and message. Thank you for the punchline!

  4. Johnny says:

    Bro this is epic writing. wat chu doing writing for salient. How about real groove or somewhere where people will actually read and appreciate this lyrical poetry. Fucking jealous you got to see his set. would have been rad

  5. C.J says:

    This is awesome. Man, reading your reviews is like stepping into a hot bath with a glass of red. You got talent kid. Don’t let jealous haters even come near you in your bubble cos you’re better than that(and them). I can’t believe the affinity I have with your writing. (and no, I’m not taking the piss as that would be low and cowardly like those jealous haters)
    Cheers for the link. I’m lovin’ it.

  6. Juan says:

    Haha mad props son…
    gotta agree though am a fan of your writing… I think Johnny is right
    But just for the record… I dunno if you meant he wasn’t on any substances at the show or in general?
    Because if in general, pure DMT had a massive influence on his release!
    also went and saw him and it was one of the dopest gigs I have been to.

  7. Nick says:

    I like that Seb doesn’t employ too many personal pronouns in his work, but when he does, it’s entirely within context. He’s easily the best music reviewer (Sorry Kim & James, but you’ve been outclassed handsomely).

  8. matthew says:

    what’s so bad about the use of personal pronouns in a review? unless you resent being reminded that, in fact, an review is an expression of a personal opinion on a particular work. regardless, there are personal pronouns littered through that review. the first and last paragraphs of this piece are terrible, the rest i can give or take. don’t believe/understand the hype.

  9. the sun says:

    Nah, Seb’s reviews are good. Don’t cry about it.

  10. MBS says:

    reviews suck aye

  11. matthew says:

    i am irl crying about this. how did u find out??!

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