Steven Ellison's hometown provides the impetus for a narrative of city life where...
Alex Forster 2008-06-05
Along with the rising profiles of both Scottish producer Rustie and fellow Warp artist Harmonic 313, FlyLo's migration to the Sheffield label for his first full-length release indicates that this strain of instrumental, broken hip hop is whetting aural appetites. Steven Ellison's hometown provides the impetus for a narrative of city life where off-kilter beats, cloaked in ambience, set the soundscape. His is an L.A that threatens; the ominous, static fog of opener Brainfeeder seduces, while Roberta Flack is just sublime.
Where David Holmes' Bow Down To The Exit Sign packed a visceral, urban punch through spoken monologues from corner street dwellers, Ellison's eschewing of M.Cs smacks of confidence. Without lyrical clutter the imagined city is as much the listener's creation as the artist's, a trick that perhaps betrays Ellison's jazz lineage (his aunt is Alice Coltrane).
Prefuse 73's shadow looms large over the wonderfully-monikered Beginners Falafel and the crunchy edits of Camel. That aside, Ellison's deftness of touch, matched with the application of ethereal backdrops that recall EL P's stone cold work with Cannibal Ox, ensure this street storyboard intensifies with each listen. The rabbit-warren, rhythmic freefall of Riot, for example, baits the listener to grapple with its organised chaos.
Tilts of the cap to mainstream hip hop come with a weighty and satisfying abstraction. Melt lifts the drum pattern from Ludacris' Stand Up, treating it to an echo-chamber rework, while the forward-leaning GNG BNG rolls off the back of eighties drum pads before touching hyphy, bollywood and finally a Shadow-esque drum break.
Underpinned by a woozily plucked double bass and a heavenly female vocal, penultimate track Testament echoes most Ellison's sound on 2006's Reset E.P. The analogue bubble bath of swansong Auntie's Lock is a final, brazen challenge to resist this record's charms.