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Los Angeles by Flying Lotus

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Reviewed on 29th June 2008.


Los Angeles

By Flying Lotus

The second LP from Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) comes on in waves of liquid synths and stuttering beats. Opener 'Brainfeeder' could be from a John Carpenter movie soundtrack, with its sci-fi tides of synth ebbing and flowing in and out; even the title conjures an eerie, post-apocalyptic image of a zombie lunching on a dead carcass in a deserted Californian boulevard. This odd lushness gives way to a string of tracks with a consistently squishy mulch and squelch of sounds, quite representative of the album as a whole, the fuzzy mood of which is sustained by a seemingly requisite record crackle and hiss that runs throughout. The beats are in general more lethargic than the crisp and clunky patter of his debut offering '1983'. There's an ethereal, spacey tint to much of the melodic (mainly synthesized and not sampled) elements, which while avoiding the more dislocated buzz of Autechre or Aphex Twin, certainly point to the more ambient trip-hop stylings of DJ Shadow.

'Camel' and 'Melt!' pierce through the underwater walk of the first few tracks however, trading in the same tactile and percussive tribalism of Timbaland's best instrumentals. These brilliant but altogether too short interjections are brushed aside too quickly though, in favour of a return to the breathy and beepy vein of the album's initial moments.

Here it could be said that 'Los Angeles' suffers from a lack of the cheeky witticisms that made pioneering beat-makers Mad Lib and J-Dilla so great. But in veering away from the contiguous off-kilter jilt of such predecessors, Ellison achieves a much more soulful depth to his sound than is usually felt possible for instrumental electronic music, and as the press release says, he hits his true stride with three back-to-back, bona fide heavyweights of beat production halfway through the LP. The murmuring bass throb of 'Riot' syncopates so starkly with the clanging twang that rides along its surface and 'GNG BNG' uses some fantastically placed retro drum machine sounds in direct juxtaposition with a messed-up sitar sample, yet soon turns, schizoid like, into another gargantuan beat of zippy synths and sawtooth bass. 'Parisian Goldfish' is truly the highlight however; a magnificently pleasing, syrupy synth line, cut up with a Gorillaz-ish thump of a beat, and made all the more a rhythmic treat with the propellant pulse of a Brazilian sounding percussion loop. This is quintessential modern day instrumental hip-hop, rooted in the local but with a global scope, eclectic and danceable all the same.

After this climactic point, the album begins to wind down. 'SexSlaveShip' returns to a moody, perhaps more morbid vibe - John Carpenter almost creeps back in, with the morosely menacing bass line. The fretless and furtive jazz groove of 'Testament' with its Portishead like lament, and 'Infinitum', which could be Bjork at her most fragile and languid, subtly close proceedings.

'Los Angeles' is an ever evolving, shifting sand bed of sounds, superbly evocative of the foggy, hazy murk of Ellison's native city; a smog-soaked and sunken landscape. The album's incompleteness, or rather, its vast and kaleidoscopic nature is a sure-fire strength, as repeated listening never disappoints. Indeed, it only instils a hankering for more of Flying Lotus' limitlessly lilting and reflective adventures in rhythmic abandon.



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