Music

Flying Lotus: Until the Quiet Comes

More airy and less cluttered than Flying Lotus’ 2010 breakthrough Cosmogramma, there’s an organic cohesion to Quiet that operates on multiple levels at once, amenable to passive listening as well as encouraging more active engagement.


Flying Lotus

Until the Quiet Comes

Label: Warp
US Release Date: 2012-10-02
UK Release Date: 2012-10-01
Amazon
iTunes

It’s appropriate that digital review copies of Flying Lotus’ latest opus Until the Quiet Comes came as a single 47-minute track, because, more than most works, it demands to be heard as a complete whole from beginning to end. When listened to in this way, you come to appreciate how Until the Quiet Comes is all about hiding the seams, whether you’re talking about where and how to chop up the individual tracks or the way FlyLo takes all his varied inputs and combines them in a way as if they were always meant to be together as he has arranged them. Indeed, Steven Ellison blends high-concept electronica, deconstructed hip-hop, and playful avant jazz with such mastery that each element is indecipherable on its own terms in his mix and becomes a component of a hybrid genre all his own. What’s most remarkable about the way Until the Quiet Comes is composed is how it moves so effortlessly and fluidly, as the L.A.-based Ellison conducts a master class on both how to create flow as well as how to maintain it through an entire album.

More airy and less cluttered than Flying Lotus’ 2010 breakthrough Cosmogramma, there’s an organic cohesion to Quiet that operates on multiple levels at once, amenable to passive listening as well as encouraging more active engagement. For those looking to chill out and check out, the album is like a subliminal soundtrack to the postmodern experience of everyday life, suffusing your senses in a soothing and fully immersive way. Giving new meaning to easy listening, FlyLo slips smoothly from one experimental techno vernacular to the next, incorporating dream-like synths, 8-bit blips, rapid-fire drum‘n’bass fills, and deep dubby beats to create music from an alternate universe that still feels real, thanks to the visceral reactions and in-your-mind’s-eye impressions it elicits. Everything has its own place and context on Until the Quiet Comes, as the whole thing goes naturally from moods of gentle euphoria to impending doom to oceanic contemplation without ever losing sight from the bigger picture. So while the high-profile vocal spots by Erykah Badu and long-time FlyLo admirer Thom Yorke would seem to be the picks to click, it says something about Ellison’s vision that their distinctive voices are subsumed into Quiet’ s fully absorbing composition, part of the mix like everything else.

While you don’t have to dig too far into Quiet to get a profound enough experience out of it, doing so only yields both more pleasure and insight, as you grapple with the deeper logic of the piece. Challenging the song-based form expected of contemporary pop music, Quiet works as a singular unit that uses contrast and on-the-fly adjustments to weave an intricate and all-encompassing soundscape; if anything, Ellison likes to change directions and make his tweaks within tracks as much as he does between them. What’s probably the hardest task that FlyLo accomplishes on Quiet is thread the needle between maintaining a coherent gameplan, while always keeping you on your toes by changing up time signatures, structures, and moods.

The first third of the album, in particular, is stunning in the way it builds something that hangs together so well out of disparate influences, variable tempos, and competing textures. On the opening piece “All In”, Flying Lotus sets the stage for what’s to come on Until the Quiet Comes, juxtaposing shimmering, Broadcast-like atmospherics and pinging, to-the-point beats, then synthesizing them. From there, Ellison is off to the races as he moves thrillingly through a wide range of styles, from the mischievous modulated synths of “Until the Colours Come” to the darker tonal shades of what you might call jazztronica on “Heave(n)” to the post-post-rock of “Tiny Tortures”, which ingeniously mixes-and-matches minimalist glitch with synthetic melodies à la Tortoise. All this builds up to one of Quiet’s most startling moments, crescendoing in an onslaught of static-clung sheets of noise on “Sultan’s Request” that are fierce and jarring enough to induce heart palpitations, only to find a release valve in the whimsical keyboards and springy beats of “Putty Boy Strut”.

While what FlyLo does is obviously heady, thought-through stuff, it wouldn’t make the impact it does if there wasn’t a warm-blooded imagination wringing something sentient and sensual out of all the techno machinations and mad professor experimentalism. There’s an undertone of yearning emotion and even soulfulness that separates Flying Lotus’ aesthetic on Quiet from that of other producer-types who may be just as proficient, technically speaking. That depth of feeling comes across not just in Erykah Badu’s resonant voice on “See Thru 2 U”, but also the spontaneously handclapped percussion that follows her up on the title track, or in how the disembodied howls on “Only If You Wanna” and Thom Yorke’s ghost-in-the-machine vocals from the haunting “Electric Candyman” are about alienation for the purpose of pushing back against it. And just as important to Ellison’s human touch is the playful good humor with which he goes about his craft, which depends as much on fun and creativity as it does on serious workmanship -- after all, Flying Lotus made a name for itself by providing bumper music for Adult Swim sequences. Such levity and high spirit help to balance out Ellison’s heavy-duty aesthetic, especially when you need lighter sounds like the brisk high-stepping on “Putty Boy Strut” and the bright, shiny swagger of “The Nightcaller” to give some lift to the record’s darker tones.

The thing is, the more you listen to Until the Quiet Comes, the more you get the sense that you’re only scratching the surface of how much is really going on with it. It’s a tribute to what FlyLo has accomplished here that no matter how and how much you enjoy it now, Until the Quiet Comes only promises to keep on revealing more and more of itself.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Julian Barratt and Oliver Maltman (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image