Experimental Los Angeles producer Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, labelled the whole Grammy nomination process a joke after 2010’s Cosmogramma was ignored in the Best Dance/Electronica Album category in favour of efforts by the likes of Chemical Brothers, BT and Groove Armada.
Having described his new fourth studio album, Until The Quiet Comes, as “a collage of musical states, dreams, sleeps and lullabies,” it’s perhaps understandable why his unique brand of ambient electronica might have been just a tad too challenging for the awards’ committee.
Barely a handful of its 18 tracks approach anything resembling a traditional structure, its abstract nu-jazz production bearing all the freeform hallmarks of his distant relations, John and Alice Coltrane–particularly the mysterious noodlings of “Tiny Tortures” and the trippy atmospherics of “Heave(n).”
The claustrophobic “Sultan’s Request,” a grimy dubstep number which sounds like the theme tune to a British hoodie horror, and the squelchy sci-fi funk of “The Nightcaller” provide a bit of respite from such avant-garde fare. But for the most part Ellison revels in disorientation.
“Putty Boy Strut” is a twisted take on the sounds of the retro video game with its quirky 8-bit bleeps and mechanical percussion, “DMT Song” is essentially a 60s lounge-pop number given the haunted house treatment, while the latter’s overwhelming ghostliness also finds its way onto the disjointed breakbeat of “Me Yesterday/Corded” and the oriental-tinged “Hunger.”
Even when the likes of Erykah Badu and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke turn up to lend a hand, the material is still as head-scratchingly esoteric. The former’s smoky soulful tones are barely audible buried beneath the overlapping tumbling percussion of “See Thru To U,” whilst the latter is virtually unrecognisable under the thick fog of reverb on “Electric Candyman.”
Those unaccustomed to Ellison’s highly unsettling fare may see the aforementioned as something of a missed opportunity, but they are indicative of his admirable and sometimes wondrous disregard for convention.
Indeed, typical of his ambitious and often impenetrable sound, Until The Quiet Comes has moments of beauty and moments of self-indulgent tedium. But the Grammy Awards are still likely to remain off-limits for now.