Posted on May 5th 2010 11:24 pm
Warp Records 2010
17 Tracks. 45mins37secs
Thought Flying Lotus’s Los Angels was ambitious? Think again. There’s a lot to get your head round on the latest slice of goodness from California-based Steven Ellison, all crammed into a mere forty five minutes of virulent twists and turns, where beats are compressed into hectic sequences and dropped over thick layers of sounds. Ellison refers to Cosmogramma as a space opera, but it is more akin to the soundtrack of a disjointed sci-fi cartoon
It is difficult to keep track of where Ellison is at any point of the record, so quick is he to move from one step to the next. Like a mouse chased by a cat, he races through stuttering beats, concussed soundscapes and fragments of songs that are never developed fully, never stopping any longer than necessary. To help him along the way, he’s enrolled an impressive plethora of musicians, from maverick bass player Thundercat and Radiohead’s Thom York to jazz saxophonist and cousin Ravi Coltrane, harpist Rebekah Raff, violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, who is here in charge of string arrangements, or regular contributor vocalist Laura Darlington, who also happens to be Mrs Daedelus and one half of The Long Lost.
Not wasting a second, Ellison flashes a devastating 8-bit pinball-bleep thing all over the opening moment of Clock Catcher, which, despite only lasting a few seconds, unequivocally kicks this album into life, before melting away in a voluptuous harp-led section. This lush moment is brought to an abrupt end by a dense cloud of electric bass as Thundercat gives Tom Jenkinson a run for his money on Pickled!. Two minutes of heavy avant-jazz and it’s time for a change again. This intense genre-hopping continues relentlessly throughout Cosmogamma. Ellison and crew never settle for more than a few moments on an idea, creating instead extremely dense and volatile vignettes, propelled by powerful undercurrents, which appear and vanish with no warning. This constant change of focus is totally overwhelming, and never allows grasping fully any part of this record, but it is exactly what Ellison aims for. One has to make do with a vastly fragmented vision of it, and it takes a while to start making sense of it all. This could, in the hands of a less experienced, or talented, artist turn into a quagmire of nothing, but FlyLo confidently negotiates his way through this sonic maze to create a daring and expressive soundtrack.
Of course, at times, this all sounds a bit too clever and showy to entirely work, but when it works, it does so with aplomb. Tracks such as the dreamy Zodiac Shit, set somewhere between auntie Alice Coltrane’s sweeping string works and Boards Of Canada’s prematurely aged electronica, the bouncy Computer Face/Pure Being, the hectic and heady Arkestry, the twisted disco of Do The Astral Plane or the oddly haunting Recoiled are as many examples of Ellison’s playful approach and uncompromising vision. With Cosmogramma, FlyLo has gone into sensory overdrive and pushed way beyond previous records to deliver an often overwhelming, always fascinating third full length.