Just a few years ago, Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) wanted to make movies, not music. Even though he was surrounded by a musical family, and despite the influence of his great aunt Alice Coltrane, he didn't go for the obvious at first. Once he eventually gave in and started producing music, some of his beats were selected for play on Adult Swim, and he was quickly on his way.
His interest in film distinctly informs his songwriting. His tunes are thematic and have a certain narrative quality. He even says that his songs are soundtracks to the film shorts in his head. One can only picture the style of these imagined films. They would have to be something reflective and sultry, maybe even abstract or animated.
If psychedelic art dub hasn't already emerged as a new subgenre (one never knows), Ellison has laid the groundwork with his new album, Los Angeles. The sounds are erratic and raspy, but the plush low end soothes everything over into a calming, luxuriant finish. In "Beginner's Falafel," slowed down futuristic machine noises float around breathy echoes and could be, well, the soundtrack to a film about an astronaut levitating in some galaxy, separated from the spaceship for a whimsical look around the outer universe.
Other elements of his compositions sound like crispy newspapers rustling, underwater construction, and gypsy instruments on a sweltering day halfway around the world. Skittish rhythms shuffle and snap back, but always keep that head-nodding cool that comes with molasses hiphop beats.
All of Ellison's tracks are collages where each little piece of noise is one more gauze-like layer building up a hazy, luminous texture. The music feels well worn but wise, like a faded copy of an old literary classic—dusty and dog-eared, but still sage with relevance.
All this makes for great time alone with your headphones, but be prepared for something different out of a live performance. Ellison draws a distinction between the home listening experience, which he says should make people sit and think, and a party at the club, where you're more likely to hear what he calls "get-up shit."