Showing posts with label jazz fusion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jazz fusion. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2019

video review: 'flamagra' by flying lotus

Okay, so this was a little messy, but still quality, still worth talking about too.

Next up... I think I've got Resonators and maybe a Top 10 list, so let's see what happens, stay tuned!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

album review: 'flamagra' by flying lotus

So I'll admit I had to go back and relisten to Cosmogramma and You're Dead! before making this review - and it probably was the first time in five years that I've done so.

And that looks bad, obviously, as both are genuinely great albums that take tangled, jazzy experimentation in their electronic tones and dive into rabbit holes rife with strange samples, twisted analog synths, and the sort of alien vibe that commands the sort of pit-in-your-stomach dread as much as it does my respect and wonder. And that's the funny thing for me: Steven Ellison aka. Flying Lotus creates thematically cohesive, amazingly intricate, and remarkably textured albums that can synthesize genuine beauty... but often cycle around existential themes and central ideas that can be deeply unsettling if you stare into that abyss, and are really best consumed as one long look. People tend to forget that certain tones of Cosmogramma were synthesized from samples of vital-sign monitors and respirators in his dying mother's hospital room, and it's also one reason I've always found it strange that Flying Lotus recruits guest artists for verses on projects like You're Dead! for isolated pieces that feel like fragments separated from a larger album - what might be more startling is how often it manages to work.

So we're dealing with prodigious amounts of talent here... so why has it taken us five years to get a new album when they normally come around a fair bit more quickly? Well, Ellison put out a contentiously received anthology film called Kuso in 2017 and he's been contributing music to other projects, but this year we got news about his newest and longest project planned to date, a concept album surrounding fire, filled with guests from long-running collaborator Thundercat to notable names like Anderson .Paak, Solange, Denzel Curry, and Shabazz Palaces, all the way to surprises like George Clinton, Tierra Whack, and David Lynch. So okay, what rabbit hole is Flying Lotus pulling us into this time?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

video review: 'you're dead!' by flying lotus

Man, this album was fun to talk about. May have gone a little overboard, but still worth a lot of consideration.

Next up... shit, I'm not sure. We'll see, so stay tuned!

album review: 'you're dead!' by flying lotus

I think if I remember 2014 for anything when it comes to my music criticism career, it'll be for two things. The first is turning me around on R&B - it was never really a genre I had embraced before, but with the rising tide of it in the mainstream and some genuinely great albums, I've come to appreciate it a lot more.

And the second would be my exploration of electronic music. I suspect to some extent this will continue to be an ongoing process, as I'm still working on getting a grip on how to write at length about acts that don't really use a lot of lyrics, but with every release, it's getting easier, especially when the acts have a knack for experimentation that can drive a lot of conversation.

Case in point, Flying Lotus, the stage name of L.A. producer Steven Ellison. His career originally kicked into motion with his second album Los Angeles in 2008, but his real success would come from the gleaming, eclectic, and generally pretty damn awesome Cosmogramma in 2010. And even coming from a guy who doesn't tend to love electronic music, that album gripped me immediately with its aggressively textured and detailed percussion, its masterful layered melodies on both synthesizers and classical instrumentation, and the off-kilter twists that suggested more than a passing influence of jazz fusion. Every listen revealed more fascinating twists that hid moments of genuine beauty in the details, not to mention some fantastic grooves that some artists would have elongated into entire songs alone. It's a genuinely thrilling album to listen through, and thus I'll admit I wasn't quite as gripped by his 2012 follow-up Until The Quiet Comes. It was a more restrained record, with more jazzy elements and more guests, but to me it lacked some of the flair, some of those transcendent and gorgeous moments that defined Cosmogramma so well. Plus, the more languid pace made some of the more grating moments drag on longer than they really should.

But all of that wasn't going to put me off checking out Flying Lotus' newest record, You're Dead! And at first glimpse, it looked like something of a different animal, swapping out vocals from Thom Yorke for verses from Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg. So what happened here?

Monday, February 17, 2014

video review: 'kindly bent to free us' by cynic

Well, that was definitely an experience for sure. Next up on the docket... hmm, well, I should probably get that Cole Swindell album out of the way. After that... well, we'll see. Stay tuned!

album review: 'kindly bent to free us' by cynic

First, a question: how many albums do you listen to in a year?

This year, with the reviewing, I'm probably set to break two hundred. The average person I reckon doesn't get much above five percent of that, and even that feels charitable. What it ends up meaning is that I expose myself to a ton of music on a very regular basis from many different genres, and on a technical level, you learn to recognize unique facets of certain bands. You learn to hear guitar texture or triggering in the kick drums or nuance in vocal delivery or true instrumental complexity done in a cohesive manner. But the average listener doesn't care about these things - hell, even most music fans don't care about those elements, which puts me - along with other critics - in a complicated situation when it comes popular acts who attempt more experimental albums and screw it up. The two immediate examples that come to my mind are Mind Over Matter by Young The Giant and The Outsiders by Eric Church, two albums that tried more 'technical experimentation' in their instrumentation and didn't do it well by any stretch of the mind. It wasn't cohesive, it didn't flow well with the rest of the track, and it sounded sloppy - but yet the average listener is never going to pick up on that. Hell, they might find it mind-blowing if they don't know otherwise - and as a critic, it's a delicate balance between recognizing your own perspective and criticizing an act for poor execution.

Now that's not a recanting of my opinions - I stand by my comments regarding those acts, harsh though they may be, and while I can identify possible knowledge gaps in my audience, willful ignorance and blind myopia infuriates me to no end. So let me aim to correct some of that and introduce you all to a band you probably don't know if you don't listen to progressive metal, and one of my go-to acts when pointing out how to make complex, technical music incredibly well: the genre-defying band known as Cynic. Starting in the late 80s, they exploded with their debut album Focus, which is widely considered one of the best progressive albums ever released - even though defining the genre Cynic fit in was always a challenge. Death metal growling juxtaposing with spacey vocoder singing, progressive time signatures fused with jazz-inspired harmonies and rhythms, it was an album that was not looking to make it easy on the listener and demanded a lot of listens to truly decode. It was an awe-inspiring debut album that remains a classic...

And then Cynic split up and didn't release any new material for fifteen years. They thankfully reunited in 2006, and two years later released Traced In Air, an album that took steps away from the band's rougher roots towards a smoother, spacier sound. And the album is goddamn amazing, one of the best of 2008 and a long-time favourite of mine - I honestly like it more that Focus! But that album, along with the remix album Re-Traced and the EP Carbon-Based Anatomy were signs that Cynic wasn't content with being a traditional metal band or one that could be easily defined. And with early buzz suggesting their newest album had dropped the growling entirely and had moved even further towards progressive space rock, I had no idea what to expect from the oddly titled Kindly Bent To Free Us. So how did it turn out?