Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Album Review: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Steven Ellison, better known by his stage name Flying Lotus, is a renaissance man. Beat maker, rapper, producer, label head, he does it all. And his résumé is just as eclectic as his music. Fusing modern hip-hop with jazz, rock, and electronica, FlyLo is able to create music with great depth and power. You’re Dead! is a prime example of that depth and power. With a myriad of styles and features, You’re Dead! is sporadic and enthralling.

Clocking in at only 38 minutes, the album is one of FlyLo’s shortest releases. However, the shorter run time sacrifices nothing. There is no wasted time over the 19 songs, with each one fading into the next, making the album feel like a few extended track. With the majority of the tracks running about only two and a half minutes, the music on each is dense and tight.

The first five songs are perhaps the best on the album. Heavily jazzy, these tracks feature saxophone solos, drum breaks, and freeform guitar, sometimes delving into a little more of a rock styling. This five song section culminates with “Never Catch Me,” a jazz/hip-hop fusion featuring a strong guest verse from Kendrick Lamar.

The album changes course with “Dead Man’s Tetris,” becoming darker and closer to the album’s theme, death. Musical shifts as well as a list of guest appearances help give this side of the album a darker feel. Snoop Dogg’s slow deep voice on “Dead Man’s Tetris” matches the track’s bass line while Thundercat’s falsetto haunts on “Descent Into Madness.”

The album’s strongest song comes at the halfway point with “Coronus, the Terminator.” A dark, slow, thumping bass is perfectly juxtaposed by Niki Randa’s high-pitched vocals. But despite its eeriness, the song feels uplifting, repeating the phrase “I’d like to save you.” This song divides the album’s central themes, marking the moment just after death, the album’s first half, and before the afterlife, the latter half; the moment the soul leaves the body.

Flying Lotus blends multiple genres to produce a new interpretation on one of the most clichéd themes in music and executes it flawlessly. Taking listeners on a haunting sonic journey through death and the afterlife, FlyLo creates a beautiful modern classic.


Andrew said...

Nice review. I'm still breaking this album in...it's been second fiddle to Caribou. I really love both Cosmogramma and Los Angeles, and I'm curious -- where would you rank this one among his previous releases?

Will Jackson said...

I actually never really listened to FlyLo prior to this album, so I'm partially biased towards this album. That being said, a lot of what I've read about it from other sites has said it's comparable to Cosmogramma and Los Angeles. What made You're Dead! just a bit better for me was the guest features and the darkness of the album.