“I try to convey this feeling of being innocent in a mystical state, being in a place that’s new, seeing things with brand new eyes, for better or worse. I just imagine this little kid floating on a beautiful king-size bed over the city at night, seeing all sorts of crazy stuff happening in the world.”
--Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus
He doesn’t just make beats or music, but conjures moods with heady soundscapes.
His last project, Cosmogramma, dazzled critics and listeners alike as it densely wove genres. More importantly, it created a Dark Side of the Moon moment when people discovered that it acted as the perfect soundtrack to Tron if timed correctly. How do you improve upon that?
As the quote above makes abundantly clear, it all starts with a wondrous image. If Cosmogramma was Ellison’s Blue Train, then his new album, When the Quiet Comes, is his A Love Supreme. The former is all about technical dexterity while the latter is an ode to a higher being, a spiritual quest in the form of a tone poem.
The sense of wonder and dreaminess that’s carried throughout WTQC echoes Trane’s sustained mood, his searing vision.
It’s a series of moments, seamlessly stacked together.
Ellison’s moment comes when he shuts out all noise and lets his basement sounds engulf him.
The sounds couldn’t belong to anyone else. Calling him “experimental” casts a wide net and misses his singularity. Bloops and blips rub up against faint jazz melodies and dub step repetition, as the specter of hip-hop (and J Dilla’s ghost) lingers in the background. While most of the tracks let the instrumentals breathe alone, select guest appearances offer the perfect sonic garnish.
Thom Yorke stops by for “Electric Candyman,” making the track alluringly spooky as he bounces between registers and ping pongs his vocals with various effects. On “See Thru To U,” Erykah Badu blesses the irregular drums with a similar haunting beauty. Still, while these features are nice,
it’s the standalone tracks that carry the record and stay with you like good sex.
“Putty Boy Strut” epitomizes one of these memorable jams. Its all squealing synths and Eastern-flavored G-funk, complementing each other like peanut butter and fluff. A video with dancing robots makes it that much sweeter. Although the record is more about a holistic impression than specific parts, “Putty Boy” makes a strong case for itself as a highlight.
This record is simply special. It’s very easy to find yourself listening to it daily, as I have found—and still somehow need to listen more.
Every time I drop the needle on the wax, I feel like the kid on the bed, looking at the world with wide-eyed wonder.