By: Jack Stein
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The Los Angeles music scene is a dynamic and eclectic one. With the riotous punk of No Age brushing shoulders with lo-fi freaks like Ariel Pink, not to mention the recent reawakening of Cali hip-hop (Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, etc.) that renders L.A. the hottest it’s been since The Chronic dropped two decades ago, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle amidst such a diverse array of artists.
As such, it’s a testament to the powers of Steven Ellison (better known as Flying Lotus) that he is leaving an indelible mark on not just his L.A. scene, but on the world of independent music as a whole. By gleaning furious IDM rhythms straight from the Aphex Twin discography, slowing things down to a torpid crawl, and adding the jazz idiosyncrasies he learned at a young age from his aunt Alice Coltrane (wife of John), one could argue that Flying Lotus has created his own brand of sublimely stoned electronica. The best cuts in his canon (“MmmHmm” comes to mind) lean heavily towards the jazz end of the sonic spectrum, enveloping the frantic beats in a cocoon of calm ambience.
Ellison is also clearly influenced by the Stones Throw producers that came before him, particularly J Dilla, Madlib, and DOOM. This stuff may be hazy and opaque, but the booming beats prevent it from ever becoming too diffuse. Ellison also never lets his talents on the decks obscure his compositional know-how, displaying a remarkable sense of restraint in letting his tracks gently simmer rather than “build + build + release.” This guy gets how to build mood better than anyone this side of Burial.
I missed Flying Lotus at Sasquatch! last year, and am beyond excited to witness his much-lauded live act this April in Indio. For those wanting to seek out the best of Ellison, check out his amazing Cosmogramma LP, Los Angeles (more dance-heavy, but still great), and any of the associated acts on his Brainfeeder label.
“MmmHmm” (feat. Thundercat)
[warning: video is ridiculous.Your move, Dancin’ Dale.]