Album Review: Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes




Standing near the rear of his first “possibly seizure-inducing” DJ festival set, an aging producer glanced my way and broke down his opinion of the current state of electronic music: “For kids these days, it’s all about the tension. It’s like watching a squirrel try to cross the street. With his short memory, he’s nearly always paralyzed by fear. As a song builds, this tension amasses inside of the listener’s brain; then following the drop, a moment of clarity washes over them — like the squirrel safely arriving to the other side. And now, fans want this release on levels and frequency like never before.” Unlike producers who aspire toward this goal with saw-jaw intensity, Flying Lotus continues to fine-tune his dynamic with the precision of a ’60s era jazz composer. Like his great-uncle John Coltrane’s Ascension, FlyLo’s Until The Quiet Comes is an exercise in dense rhythmic layers and melodic dissonance.

FlyLo’s studio cohort, bassist Thundercat, adds much to the project’s underlying free jazz aesthetic. Officially featured on just one track, the throwback psychedelic stylings of “DMT Song”, Thundercat’s bass can be heard at the root of approximately 70% of the album. When FlyLo’s beats, integrated horn arrangements, and live drum patterns spiral off into 360 degrees of separation, it’s this underlying bass structure that lends a sense of clarity and keeps the listener planted for the LP’s entirety.

Written during a time of artistic uncertainty and clashing external voices, Until The Quiet Comes reflects FlyLo’s state of mind: outwardly calm while creating synergies from competing forces. The LA producer goes truly “All In” on the album’s opening track, intertwining a patchwork of chimes, high-pitched keyboard loops, muffled walking bass, and SONAR blips in to the post-dub bass line of “Getting There” and the exasperated whispers of Niki Randa. The appreciation for post-dub elements also appears on ”All The Secrets”, which borrows a heavy dose of beat work from the suonds of James Blake.

Since his debut, 1983, FlyLo has created a signature style of integrating lush female vocalists into the urban chaos of his shuffling beats. “See Thru To You” featuring Erykah Badu is the newest, and most elegant, manifestation of this prowess. Breaking Badu’s R&B vocals into a pseudo-scat arrangement and pitching the runs upward compounds the already enchanting qualities of the track’s primal percussion and dopamine bass riffs. The Laura Darlington feature on “Phantasm” places listeners within the album cover, suspended in an electro-acoustic void of slinky vocal delivery, metronome clicks, fluttering string arrangements, and down-tempo digital agitation.

FlyLo’s forte may be teaming with female musicians, but who could possibly turn down working with Thom Yorke? After the duo unexpectedly came together for “…And the World Laughs with You”, off of 2010’s Cosmogramma, they have reunited for this LP’s most hypnotic affair, “Electric Candyman”. Yorke’s chants of “look into the mirror and say my name” rest on the back of the track’s hail stone loops, beats that are repeatedly lifted through the digital turbulence of the track only to come plummeting down at conclusion, broader and more fierce than their original counterparts. Once again, an aura of calm takes over after the beats wipe through Yorke’s vocals, in the form of exotic bird chirps and the rustle of a living rainforest.

The headache of uncertainty is most intense on “Sultan’s Request”, proof that FlyLo can knock you back as easily as he can transfix. Arriving at the album’s 13-minute mark, “Sultan’s Request” is FlyLo’s closest venture into a mechanized-bass anthem. Unlike fellow producers that cut the bass with electro-slashes, FlyLo adds texture with mid-tempo synth scales and beats mixed to the bottom end of the track’s spectrum. While the track displays a technique rarely heard from FlyLo, both the song’s lead-in and lead-out make it seem out of place, and it ultimately reads as full-length filler.

With so much critically acclaimed talent, Until The Quiet Comes could have easily shot for the pop charts. Instead, FlyLo silenced the external forces and produced an album that is dark enough to spin at LA’s Low End Theory, yet smooth enough to garner listens from fans well outside of the club’s beat freaks. Molded in the hands of a lone producer, Until The Quiet Comes certainly embodies the talents of a number of studio musicians and the album’s featured artists; FlyLo just did so on his own terms — and with that old, lofty goal of personal satisfaction.

Essential Tracks: ”All In”, “See Thru To You”, “DMT Song”, and “Electric Candyman”