Flying Lotus, ‘Until the Quiet Comes’ – Album Review
Taking on a new Flying Lotus album is a difficult task, partially because it's hard finding a criterion with which to measure it. While other artists sit alongside a pantheon of contemporaries, the man formerly known as Steven Ellison makes it seem as if his colleagues exist in an alternate dimension altogether. One might imagine Flying Lotus trading ideas with aliens via a TARDIS kept in the same clandestine basement from which he unearths his samples. Of course, that isn't the case -- no artist is an island -- but 'Until the Quiet Comes,' is the first Flying Lotus album since he signed to Warp where that's apparent.
Fortunately, a Flying Lotus LP tied to the astral plane of the here-and-now isn't such a bad thing. If you're familiar with 2010's expansive 'Cosmogramma' or his breakout record, 'Los Angeles,' you're going to see a lot of the same predilections resurface. The jazzy detours, the post-New Age atmospherics and the compressed synths all return here. This time, though, you get the sense that they're the well-worn tools of a master craftsman rather than the bombs of a guy setting out to blow minds. Being a revolutionary is easier the first time around, and we shouldn't be disappointed if Flying Lotus is slowly expanding his universe rather than re-imagining it.
As Flying Lotus slowly leaves behind his suffocatingly dense everything-and-the-kitchen sink approach, he's replaced it with something more staid, more low-key. The title track, 'Until The Quiet Comes,' shifts from sampled vocals to become an intricate jazz-inflected number, while 'Sultan's Request' ambles along like a MegaMan boss battle in slow motion. These songs create a lattice-work across the album's dystopian fabric, each making the quilt a little bit larger. You'll have to patient if you want to see it finished.
And like a quilt, 'Until The Quiet Comes' is best seen as a unified whole. In fact, when first given to critics as a review copy, it was presented as a single track without song names. To go back and dissect it now seems antithetical to its purpose. Even the album's guest stars -- the list includes some huge names -- sound as one with the same vision. Supernaturally talented bassist Thundercat's contribution to 'DMT Song' is an album highlight, but it's not a sonic outlier, while Niki Randa's vocals are gorgeous additions on both the emotional 'Hunger' and jangly, incense-drenched 'Getting There.'
When Radiohead's Thom Yorke appears for 'Electric Candyman,' his vocals are compressed and warped into something foreign but still recognizable. You can tell the two are kindred spirits, and Yorke's voice was floating around electronic landscapes long before Flying Lotus release his first record. Yet it's Erykah Badu, not Yorke, who appears on what might be the album's most impressive track. With its rickety live percussion, 'See Thru U' sees Badu enchant the song in her own beguiling Afro Futuristic tones. Like Yorke, she's an artist after Flying Lotus' own heart, and as her voice begins to fade, you'll want to replay the song immediately.
As the album closes with the ghostly static of 'Dream To Me' it signals a new sort of triumph for Flying Lotus. Like those who put on his music to meditate or zone out, Flying Lotus seems to be taking a breather. He can still see the future; he's just in less of a hurry to get there.