New Flying Lotus album a nice balancePublished 1:03pm Wednesday, October 3, 2012
A friend once argued to me that noise music is the new jazz.
No, he wasn’t talking jazz in the sense of genre; he meant jazz in regards to what music is pushing the limits of experimentation and improvisation.
Though he was talking of bands like Sonic Youth and Twin Cities band Daughter of the Sun, I would add into the discussion the electronic, beat-based music of producers like Modeselektor and Flying Lotus, who will release his latest album “Until the Quiet Comes” on Oct. 1
Steven Ellison, the electronic producer known as Flying Lotus, takes his musical lineage to the next progression on “Until the Quiet Comes.”
Ellison is the great-nephew of of Alice Coltrane, the talented wife of jazz legend John Coltrane.
Though not as well-known as her husband, Alice played organ, piano and harp and went on to be a gifted composer after John’s death.
Listening to Flying Lotus and “Until the Quiet Comes,” it’s easy to see he took inspiration from his jazz heritage.
His newest songs required a great deal of experimentation, improvisation and it’s truly a 21st Century form of music, with computers, drum machine, keyboards and the like serving as the instruments of choice.
The album produces a sound that expands and contracts in dizzying flourishes of sound. But on his fourth album, Ellison is masterful in crafting songs and not just producing noise. Though it’s easy to see the album as chaotic, Ellison clearly knows what he’s doing, crafting what could easily spin off into technological oblivion into something that has form and purpose.
Often, electronic acts tend to tailspin into vertigo, like children toppling over after spinning in a circle too many times.
But Ellison keeps his distinct blend of electronics steady and often relaxed, with hip-hop-like drum rhythms carrying listeners through beats that blend into cosmic music.
The fascinating part about Ellison’s albums is that his vast canvas of sounds form together without becoming cluttered or overdone. Many similar acts tend to become lost in a quest for more: more speed, more sounds, more beats, more noise.
On “All the Secrets,” simple piano/keyboard parts play over driving rhythms of drum loops.
Vocals only appear on a handful of tracks, and the voices are typically subdued or blend in as another piece of the electronic puzzle — the vocals rarely demand the spotlight. On “Electronic Candyman,” Radiohead’s Thom Yorke provides soulful vocals that are distorted and looped into haunting tones.
It’s easy for listeners to underestimate electronic music. After all, any high school or college student with a laptop can produce electronic songs, right? Well, any student with a guitar can write rock songs, too. But, such electronic sounds are still developing, and Ellison has set himself ahead of the field.