There are three main groups of people who will listen to the new Flying Lotus album Until the Quiet Comes. There are those who have listened to his previous work and been pleased. These people liked his previous two albums for their thick textures, dense arrangements of an almost uncountable number of noises simultaneously and undying hip hop electrojazz energy. There are those who have listened to his previous work and been displeased. These people might have been turned off by the chaos and noisiness of 2010’s Cosmogramma and 2008’s Los Angeles, FlyLo’s sophomore album. “Robot music,” they might have called it. And then there are those who are approaching Steven Ellis, the man behind the stage name inspired by an aquatic flower, for the very first time.
Until the Quiet Comes doesn’t replicate Ellis’ old music to please past fans. Nor does it respond to critics’ complaints. This album is in no way a sellout. FlyLo is still all robots and gizmos, but this time they have been programmed more efficiently. Ellis’s new music is a marriage of industry and elegance. It’s music that occupies a space somewhere between the Shinkansen “bullet train” in Japan and the endless array of turbines in central Iowa wind farms.
Ellis has stripped down his style (“elegant” isn’t an adjective that I’d use to describe Cosmogramma). He blends the same genres—trip hop, jazz, science fiction, IDM, fantasy—but whereas his last two albums nearly burst at the seams attempting (in my opinion, succeeding) to contain layers upon layers of instruments, Until the Quiet Comes parses through FlyLo’s library of noises and chooses only the appropriate ones. As the title suggests, this is the “Quiet” album.
Ellis’ new work has range and narrative. The listener is first introduced to a few tracks that borrow heavily from jazz, an inviting welcome to the body of the LP. Next are tracks like “Tiny Tortures,” “Sultan’s Request” and “Putty Boy Strut,” that could be placed directly on a video game soundtrack, 8-bit or High-Def, and give the gamer a compulsion to drop the controller and dance. The developers at WiiFit should talk to FlyLo’s agents.
The gut of the album folds in outside talent as Ellis has done in the past, and this is a facet of the work that cannot be ignored. Thom Yorke, Erykah Badu and Niki Randa are among the voices he morphs into heavenly instruments. Until the Quiet Comes is sparse of many traditional vocal sections, but Ellis does wonders to his accomplices’ voices by reverberating them like silken echoes. They are the rainbow “sprinkles on top” every child wants on his sundae.
FlyLo lovers, haters and newbies can unite over Ellis’s latest mindchild, a whimsical yet deliberate experiment that sets Flying Lotus for a larger fanbase.