Flying Lotus // You’re Dead!
by Chad Clemens on October 18, 2014
Posted in: Album Review, Concert, Eclectic, Electronic, Hip Hop, Jazz, Music, Rap
Consistency is key, says the new indie-n proverb I decided was true for the sake of this write up. A well-crafted, unique sound is any musician’s best friend; experimentation is the double-edged résumé-stuffer that critics crave (nay, demand!) but only when done right. Change too little and you’ll become boring and cantankerous. Change too much and you’ll become another archetype for college kids of nigh to reaffirm ‘their-older-stuff-is-better’. You better find your sound and stick with it and slap your name on it so hard so that when you finally decide to shake things up the red imprint left behind becomes a holier-than-thou watermark on any future releases that even slightly resemble it, because once you stray too far into unfamiliar territory there’s someone new already doing it better than you anyway. Moderation, then, is crucial, says the more applicable aphorism come to light in this paragraph.
Flying Lotus has essentially nailed this golden mean with his latest release, You’re Dead!, which is undeniably the culmination of his past work. That’s a word I’ve used liberally in the past but I’m fairly certain this is the most literal example I can come up with. Dissecting any of the intricate and complex tracks found on this album will leave you with components FlyLo has already examined in his past releases: the hip-hop vibes from Los Angeles, the Coltrane family tribute from Cosmogramma, smooth electro- r&b from Until the Quiet Comes – he’s done it all before, just never quite like this all at the same time. Taking his best and making it better. Then he arranges it to the tune of Art’s #1 Favorite Theme of All Time and just like that he’s got his magnum opus.
For an album consumed with death, You’re Dead! is brimming with vigorous life – frantic bursts of swirling free-form jazz, abrupt forays into spaced-out psychedelia and avant-garde electro-prog fusions altogether kaleidoscope within the echo chamber forged out of FlyLo’s characteristically juxtaposed loud and gritty production. It gives you just enough room to parse through the absurd amount of atmospheric layering rendered in this massive yet circular soundscape, that is, once you’ve spun it a couple of times before then. Opting to play this record means fully committing yourself to 38 minutes of FlyLo’s vision and nothing else. You haven’t got the headspace nor the patience to wrap your mind around all it’s got to say, so instead the opposite occurs – You’re Dead! sucks you up into a spiraling vortex of noise, surrounds you on all sides, rushes toward you in a singular moment, and then you just sorta let it happen to you. It’s a highly immersive musical experience, the equivalent of closing your eyes and firmly pressing your fingertips against your eyelids until billowing clouds of dispersive color and flashing geometric shapes morph in and out of your consciousness. Or of taking shrooms. Or of looking at the album cover.
With all that comes the unavoidable truth that this right now, this general temporal range of the build-up, release of and reaction toYou’re Dead!, along with the unspecified moment during which you are listening to the record within the timeline of contemporary music, is FlyLo’s peak. He’s mixed and mastered and remastered his trademark sonics to the point of no return – anything more polished is stale, anything too similar is derivative, anything too different will probably ‘suck’ whether it’s actually bad or not. He’s been going around in circles for the last seven years, albeit hella stylish ones. His next direction is anyone’s guess, but as the saying goes, what goes (or, “has already gone”) up must come down, and FlyLo’s distinct brand of musical psychedelics can’t defy that.
Best Trax: 1, 5, 6, 9, 14, 17, 19
RIYL: Thundercat, Shabazz Palaces, Shlomo, L.A. future bass
You’re Dead! is out now on Warp. Flying Lotus is playing a show in Burlington tonight (10/18) at Higher Ground with Thundercat.
Chad Clemens is one of WRMC’s Music Directors and co-hosts a show called “Perfect From Then On” Thursday nights 8-10 pm.