Flying Lotus - Los Angeles
Wonky beats drift in and out of focus, drum patterns wriggle through fuzzy layers of crackling, ambient noise and off-kilter basslines judder and lurch on the far-reaching second LP from US producer Steven Ellison, AKA Flying Lotus. Building on the success of last year's well-received Reset EP, his first full-length for Warp is a worthy addition to the label's vaunted catalogue of dazzling, innovative releases. And speaking of heritage, Ellison comes from an impressive musical background - Motown songwriter Marilyn McLeod was his grandmother and he was a nephew to the late jazz legend Alice Coltrane, whose pretty harp playing graces a short track on this collection.
The schizophrenic songs bleed into one another in a manner intended to represent the duality of the place that gives the record its name, taking in the City of Angels' glitz and glamour as well as the grungy flipside to that coin. It's an album constantly batting between extremes, which sees Orbit 405's digital breakdown, conjuring images of the four horsemen riding over an electronic grave, side by side with the sleek robot soul of Diva, and the broken beats of Sleepy Dinosaur disintegrating into the melancholic, shuffling Roberta Flack. A melting pot of seventeen tracks alternately stacked with hazy hip-hop beats, hiss, crackle and crunching bass are squeezed into the forty minute-plus run time, and the constantly changing moods work well to keep the album feeling fresh.
Although this is an instrumental work for the most part, FlyLo employs a liberal dash of samples from time to time and adds a handful of cuts featuring guest vocalists into the mix. Married to a rich and sensuous backing track, Laura Darlington's airy tones add weight to album closer Auntie's Lock/Infinitum, while Gonja Sufi's distinctive wail on Testament adds a different dimension to what's come before.
An explosion of messy, organic, beautiful sounds as heard through some stuttering phantom radio frequency, Los Angeles has a translucent beauty that sparkles and shimmers, creating a dazzling musical landscape with peaks and troughs aplenty waiting to be explored.