Stephen Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, is an artist who seems to reach a new stage in an ongoing quest for beat-driven enlightenment with the release of each album. From the beginning of his career, Ellison has maintained a steady focus on perfecting his craft as a producer. His 2008 full-length Los Angeles proved to be not only a career defining album, but also a landmark in instrumental hip-hop, following the passing of the late J Dilla. Ellison’s emergence marked the beginning of a post-Dilla sound and movement, showcasing that he was a disciple of hip-hop despite a penchant for electronic soundscapes incorporating video game bleeps along with other diverse sounds and samples.
That album’s successor, Cosmogramma, would eventually prove a shift in the dynamic of Ellison’s music. It no longer bore any similarities to Dilla’s crackly Detroit beats, but rather found Ellison creating something more distinctive. The album itself was not only born of personal strife, but also represented a spiritual journey that integrated hip-hop, jazz and electronic music to create unique, organic album. Finally, we reach his latest effort, Until The Quiet Comes, which brings a much deeper exploration within Flying Lotus’ music.
The sounds on the album are much more refined and layered than on previous releases, and feature an abundance of live instrumentation; it’s typically hard to figure out where the beats and the samples lie. But let’s begin with a few key points before dissecting this album. It’s important to note that both “Heave(n)” and “Phantasm” have actually been around for quite some time. The former was released shortly after Cosmogramma via FlyLo’s YouTube page and the latter was released as an instrumental titled “Caravan Of Delight” on Busy P’s compilation, Let The Children Techno. At times, FlyLo even hinted on his Twitter that this was the direction he was planning on going in the first place. It seems logical too, given his recent work. Last year, he took on full production duties with Thundercat’s brilliant debut, The Golden Age Of Apocalypse. There, the fusion of mostly jazz-inspired tracks permeated that album with hints of FlyLo’s work behind the panels. The music Ellison composed for Until The Quiet Comes finds him heading in a different direction and departing from previous releases, but the key elements of his style are still there.
Leadoff track “All In” begins the album with raps of snare, soft keys, a slick bassline — basically a sound that washes over the listener and continues to do so throughout the album’s entirety. “Getting There” features gorgeous vocals from Niki Randa, which boast a strange and cryptic beauty. Similarly, this trait carries on in “Hunger” (also featuring Randa) and “Phantasm” with Laura Darlington, each one bearing an elegance that Ellison has perfected with female vocalists over the past half-decade. “See Thru To U” featuring Erykah Badu not only sounds like a neo-soul track, but also carries its own weight on the album, pitting Badu’s soft voice against a sonic backdrop of live instruments that develop a solid groove. “Electric Candyman” once again finds FlyLo collaborating with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, but much in a much different capacity than before. On Cosmogramma, Yorke was limited to one verse. Here, he has a much broader role, singing “Look into the mirror and/ Look into the mirror and,” as FlyLo blends Yorke’s lingering voice against a montage of spectacular sounds.
As the album begins to wrap up, it stirs up the temptation to revisit the album again and explore this infinite aural journey. Until The Quiet Comes plays much like an extended lullaby that enraptures listeners. It’s both seductive and intriguing, and draws a continuous lure. It’s probably a cliché to say so, but it’s true enough on Until the Quiet Comes — Flying Lotus makes dreams become reality.