Frustrated with all the “Starbucks jazz s***” out there, Los Angeles beatmaker Flying Lotus ventures into the territory once occupied by his great auntie and uncle, Alice and John Coltrane, for his fifth studio effort, You’re Dead!
The artist formerly known as Steven Ellison isn’t exactly a stranger to the sound, having built a career on blurring the boundaries between jazz, funk, hip-hop and electronica in various weird and wonderful ways. But the follow-up to 2012’s Until The Quiet Comes is the first time that he’s embraced his freeform roots so wholeheartedly.
The first third of You’re Dead! is nothing short of manic, as Flying Lotus lurches from the glitchy foreboding of opener “Theme” to the percussive lounge of “Tesla” to the proggy “Cold Dead” in a fast and furious manner which explains why despite featuring no less than 19 tracks, the record still clocks in under 40 minutes.
Collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg may be lengthier but are just as jittery, with the former showcasing his trademark rapid-fire delivery over the trap beats and noodling basslines of “Never Catch Me,” and the latter joining FlyLo’s MC alter-ego Captain Murphy on the static crunches, 8-bit synths and doom-laden vocal samples of “Dead Man’s Tetris.”
The sheer wide-eyed invention on display is undoubtedly impressive, but it’s the calm after the storm where You’re Dead shines the brightest. Accompanied by Dirty Projectors’ Angel Deradoorian, “Siren Song” is a gorgeously dreamy blend of twinkling neo-soul and operatic melodies; “Descent Into Madness” sees the charming falsetto-led vocals of protégé Thundercat soar over a deliciously languid funk backdrop; while “The Protest” draws the record to a tranquil meditative close with its hypnotic chants and New Age synths.
There are so many ideas bouncing around You’re Dead! that at times it can be completely overwhelming. But Flying Lotus isn’t exactly renowned for making things easy, and those who enjoy his disregard for convention will find plenty to sink their teeth into here.