I am hesitant to say that there hasn’t been enough crossover between hip-hop and free jazz or jazz fusion because, quite frankly, in the wrong hands, it could be a tremendous disaster. Yet, there have been some artists who have bridged the genres seamlessly and beautifully, most notably Prefuse 73, Guillermo Scott Herren’s project which is actually named for the pre-fusion era in jazz history. On the opposite side of the country, Los Angeles based producer Flying Lotus, also known as Steven Ellison, is doing similarly inspired yet unique things with jazz and hip-hop, having initially been inspired by Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle and actually growing up as part of the Coltrane family (yeah, that one). Last year he offered his idiosyncratic brand of psychedelic hip-hop on debut 1983, an underground gem with few sonic peers. A year later, Flying Lotus dishes out 16 more minutes of jazz-inspired electro-funk on Reset.
Reset breezes by quickly, but each song stands as its own impressive sonic construction. Leadoff track “Tea Leaf Dancers” is trippy and soulful, heady billowing synths paired with smooth, cosmic female vocals. Buzzing electro bass colors “Vegas Collie,” a video game breakdown that sounds exotic and strange in its dizzying analog mess. “Massage Situation” is soothing and laid back, a fun meeting place between lounge and g-funk, with quite pleasing results. “Spicy Sammich” has the best title of all, which probably goes without saying, but the song itself is something of a spicy sammich, combining distant, bizarre vocal samples, rumbling basslines, and a general sense of creepy ambience. Closing off the EP is “Dance Floor Stalker,” an upbeat and danceable number, building slowly with a minimal aesthetic, ultimately layering on exotic, effects-laden samples.
There aren’t many producers like Flying Lotus, or rather, there aren’t that many who do what he does quite as well. Reset blows by quickly, but leaves the listener wanting a whole lot more. Hearing the spicy sammiches he’s been cooking up here, the thought of another full-length becomes a rather tasty prospect.
Daedelus – Denies the Day’s Demise
Prefuse 73 – Vocal Studies and Uprock Narratives
Four Tet – Rounds
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.