FFF6 in review: Flying Lotus' cosmic drama
How much weight does lineage hold? L.A. producer and DJ Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, has managed to distill his perfectly.
The great-nephew of jazz pianist Alice Coltrane and cousin of saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, Ellison's ear has been finely tuned by history and genetics. His palette of beats, samples, and breaks made last year's stellar third LP Cosmogramma (Warp) required listening, mainly in that headphones should be required, and it should be approached as a whole album, with one song feeding the next.
So, the inevitable question: How would it sound live?
It's not easy to watch a DJ, especially of the laptop variety, but Ellison was always engaged in the music, eyes shifting from one piece of equipment to another, scanning for the right cosmic mix. Jazz, soul, and hip-hop are the points in his constellation, no doubt polished from bouts at L.A.'s weekly beathead meetup, Low End Theory.
Snippets of the low-key "MmmHmm" and Tyler the Creator's strident "Yonkers" made their way into the mix as well, as Ellison tried to keep the peace between all the factions. Stuttering, offbeat, slinky.
Rumors of Erykah Badu joining him evaporated, but it would have been nice to have an emcee or live band, even for a few songs. Ellison occasionally yelled a phrase ("Party like there's no Monday!"), but relied mostly on the syrupy beats he was weaving.
The energy of the set was high, and Ellison had a smile on his face most of the time, shrugging off any expectations of a detached DJ. That genuine love for the music made his alien sounds even more impressive, challenging the way people listen to it live, the mass of nodding heads and cloud of smoke hanging above them the seal of approval.