Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
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Four years ago, Steven Ellison closed the curtains on his debut album 1983 with a track called “Unexpected Delight”; an atypical, tranquil three minutes of utter ecstasy. It was after just one listen that I had established a certainty that Flying Lotus would continue to create bleeding edge expressions. He’s behind the scenes working ahead of the times. We’re a mere handful of months into a young 2010 and FlyLo is already responsible for some of the year’s finest material in Gonjasufi’s A Sufi and a Killer & José James’ Blackmagic. Alas, there’s Cosmogramma, Ellison’s new baby. Handcrafted, placed under tremendous guardianship, and trained to flourish deep within your innermost feelings. Of course that’s no easy path, which explains the challenge faced when listening to this record. Much like our complex system, Cosmogramma bends. It curves; it fluctuates; it breathes.
The most interesting feature regarding Cosmogramma is its spread. It may take a handful, even several listens before you understand the grand scheme of things. After one listen, tracks like “Zodiac Shit” and “Galaxy in Janaki” were havens — dependable reference points that I quickly felt comfortable with. “Zodiac Shit” placed me in a meditative state with it’s peaceful remedy of quivering strings and a sonic flare, each like individual blips located on a radar device. As for “Galaxy in Janaki”? I’d like to thank Adult Swim for teasing it months ago. Space is the place, and this tune embraces that motto with a pure clusterfuck of galactic flavors. Can’t forget my first listen of “Do The Astral Plane” either, as I like to document every time I spontaneously burst into dance in my office. Keep that funk alive.
A handful of listens into Cosmogramma, I made sense of “Satelllliiiiiteee”. The heavy breathing background, the stampeding percussion; it makes for a great digital tribal hymn. “Table Tennis” took some time — a long rally — to warm up. This is Laura Darlington’s most ambitious contribution to Flying Lotus’ work yet, lullabying during a ping-pong match which, judging by when the ball makes contact with the table, acknowledging gravity, is being played on a spaceship. We thought it wasn’t possible. Myth busted.
Several listens into Cosmogramma, everything was in its right place. Kid A reference intended, the Thom Yorke’d “…And The World Laughs With You” does not fall into this category. That was diagnosed under “ill” immediately. “Arkestry”, as a digital jazz piece, is so Coltrane (go figure). The overcast saxophone notes blend into the sporadic percussion, with a hint of harp on the pointe finale. It’s so organic, so subtle in comparison to some of the more direct pieces on the LP, that it breezed right by. “Mmmhmm” provides much more clarity, though with such easy-going stature, could only slowly convince me of its important presence as a vital inhale.
The variety may overwhelm or disorient listeners, but Cosmogramma’s grandeur is what truly sets Flying Lotus apart from his acquaintances. Ellison carefully decided to pour all of his creativity out onto this record, an overflow of many genres that forge together to make one of the most challenging, rewarding, and brilliant albums in quite some time. Contrary to the 1983 title, it’s an expected delight.