Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma

Jason Randall Smith

Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma [Warp Records]

One of the first things noticeable about Cosmogramma is that, while it is clearly Steven Ellison’s brainchild, there’s an enhanced spirit of collaboration on this album that wasn’t as prevalent on Los Angeles.

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There’s the frenetic slap and pluck of bass strings from Thundercat that rumble throughout several selections. There’s the captivating cascade of notes from harpist Rebekah Raff, tapping into the symphonic and cosmic energy of Ellison’s aunt, Alice Coltrane. There’s also the all-too-noticeable appearance of Thom Yorke on “…And The World Laughs With You,” his vocals a hybrid of human and alien tones phoned in from another part of the globe. When a vocalist from a high profile rock band decides to get his Kid A on ten years after the fact on somebody else's project, one has to wonder if this helps or hinders the listening experience. Besides, when it comes to a musical lineage, Flying Lotus is far richer than most. Along with the spiritual presence of Auntie Alice, there’s the expressive tenor sax of his cousin, Ravi Coltrane. It’s an impressive guest roster, but FlyLo’s vision remains at the heart of this release, an expansive and inclusive vision that stretches from the streets of L.A. to stratospheres beyond this universe.

Considering the accolades that have come from the dubstep massive, some may not resist the effort to paint this album into that subgenre’s corner. Indeed, selections like “Recoiled” reinvent its rhythmic accents and subwoofer-splitting warbles with percussive spice that sounds more like the click of a dozen projectors advancing to the next slide. However, the unpredictable “Dance Of The Pseudo Nymph” veers off into future jazz fusion, a free-for-all between bass, tambourine, tablas, and excitable handclaps. “Zodiac Shit” bathes itself in synth-led surrealist beats while “Do The Astral Plane” offers a sneak peek at house music from the year 3000. However, it’s pieces like “Arkestry” and “German Haircut” that reaffirm the avant-garde foundation that this recording was built upon. With Cosmogramma, Flying Lotus has created a panoramic work that connects the free jazz of a previous generation with the forward motion soundscapes of the next.

 
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