Shortly after the term “aquacrunk” went swimming around the music press to describe the liquid arrangements of the various experimental beat makers associated with the L.A.-based, Low End Theory scene, the movement’s luminary Steven Ellison (aka Flying Lotus) took to Twitter to dismiss the characterization before it stuck, saying “[d]ear journalists, [t]here is no such thing as ‘aquacrunk.’ Please stop trying to put us in a box. We’re just having fun making music.”
On Flying Lotus’s latest release, the seven-track Pattern+Grid World EP, the electronic music polyglot continues his protean quest to defy all-encompassing labels, while at the same time offering up an affair more easily digestible than his last full-length album and magnum opus, Cosmogramma. Whereas that release was a fall into the multi-layer rabbit hole, chock-full of esoteric density and idiosyncratic genre shifts, Pattern+Grid World could be seen as its whimsical-to-the-point-of-synth-loving companion.
Opener “Clay” hearkens back to the sound mined by FlyLo on his L.A. EP series. It’s a hodgepodge of spacey ambience, wonky synths juxtaposed with jangling beats and a hint of stretched-out ethereal soul. “Kill Your Co-Workers” is an 8-bit whirlwind pushed along by a ping-pong backbeat and old-school NES samples. Highlight “Jurassic Notion/M Theory” rattles along in tribal drum-and-bass mentalism before speeding up the percussive tone mid-track to a Plastikman-like frenzy. On the superb closer “Physics for Everyone!”, smeared synths give way to intergalactic sirens that ultimately disintegrate into a digital glitch.
Coming in at just under 20 minutes, Pattern+Grid World is an all too brief affair that may be a bit disconcerting for those looking for the extensive headphone hypnotism that’s offered on the artist’s full lengths. However, even in bit-size doses, Flying Lotus proves that the only thing predictable about him is his consistent capacity to awe.