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Picking apart the jazz tapestry of Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus, You're Dead!
Photo: Timothy Saccenti

We pick out five landmark jazz records that live through the music of the LA-based DJ/producer

While Kamasi Washington’s The Epic has recently brought jazz back to the hipsters, Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) has been running the voodoo down for years. The DJ, producer and founder of the Brainfeeder record label fuses jazz, downtempo and hip hop into one bitchin’ brew – each of his five albums are sampladelic masterpieces that can be as inscrutable as they are intoxicating. This is what we imagine FlyLo’s ‘essential listens’ to be.

John Coltrane – Ascension

 

John Coltrane - Ascension

Of course Ellison would’ve played this album by his grand-uncle on repeat. There’s only one (40-minute-long) track, recorded in a single take by 11 musicians, and is characterised by screeching horns, crescendoing solos and the restraint of its rhythm section. This is the record that put Coltrane up among the free jazz legends.

Art Ensemble of Chicago – Les Stances a Sophie

 

 

Art Ensemble of Chicago – Les Stances a Sophie

Alternatingly funky, soulful and freeform, this soundtrack album to the 1970 French film adds a good dose of hard bop and R&B to its otherwise avant garde compositions. We imagine FlyLo would’ve been inspired by its eclecticism that toes the line between structure and chaos.

The Cinematic Orchestra – Every Day

The Cinematic Orchestra – Every Day

 

Probably the most accessible on the list, this nu-jazz release by the UK outfit brought together pop, electronic and jazz in one smooth-as-silk swoop. It’s nowhere as adventurous as any of the others – or as FlyLo himself – yet it does shine as a launching pad to Ellison’s own discography.

Purple Trap – Decided… Already the Motionless Heart of Tranquility, Tangling the Prayer Called ‘I’

Purple Trap – Decided… Already the Motionless Heart of Tranquility, Tangling the Prayer Called ‘I’

 

Wanky album title aside, this is a collaboration between drummer extraordinaire Rashied Ali (he’s known for his work on later Coltrane records), Japanese master of noise Keiji Haino on guitars and vocals, and the versatile bassist Bill Laswell. Texture is the key here – and it’s something FlyLo would’ve borrowed heavily from in his albums Cosmogramma and You’re Dead!

Albert Ayler Trio – Spiritual Unity 

Albert Ayler Trio – Spiritual Unity

 

‘We weren’t playing – we were listening to each other,’ the sax player said of this album, whose rhythm section doesn’t function so much as an anchor as it does an ever-shifting mass. It’s similar to FlyLo’s sampladelic tendencies, where layers of sound effortlessly collide and collude.

Flying Lotus is at The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel Sentosa on May 26.

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