California producer finds his happy place on this exceptional LP.
Marcus J. Moore 2012-09-17
2010’s Cosmogramma was a watershed moment for experimental producer Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus. At no point in his relatively short career had the California native sounded so fidgety and restless. Despite the pressure, Cosmogramma was a refreshingly dynamic take on jazz, techno and electro-soul, and a highlight in Ellison’s already remarkable discography.
Until the Quiet Comes is amazing for different reasons. For one, it’s much more accessible than its predecessor, though it contains glitches typical of a Flying Lotus recording, with booming bass drums supplanted by edgy synths. But while his previous work is bright and bouncy, this set is ambient and nocturnal. It’s a wistful journey through a mystical dream world that only he could construct.
And he seems quite comfortable there. After Cosmogramma was snubbed in 2010’s Grammy category for Best Electronic/Dance album, Lotus called the awards process “a joke” on Twitter. Surely, he had a right to be disturbed, since the album was an all-in effort. Maybe that’s why Until the Quiet Comes is so streamlined. While traces of anxiety remain, there’s an overriding sense of tranquillity permeating this record.
Take a song like Getting There, for instance. It carries the percussive knock of a hip hop tune without the rhymes; instead, guest vocalist Niki Randa hums angelically amongst the track’s twinkling chimes.
Such ambience continues on See Thru to U and its rousing backdrop: tribal drums and cymbals merge with Erykah Badu’s atmospheric moans. The results are strikingly celestial.
Other songs are closer to Earth. The Nightcaller is a straightforward breakbeat drenched in California gloss. Putty Boy Strut, with its electronic handclaps and computerized squeaks, is a videogame instrumental fit for a Legend of Zelda remake.
And then there’s Phantasm and its hauntingly disjointed procession. Here, Ellison fuses strings, electric keys, and fluttering bass with vocalist Laura Darlington’s delightful sighs.
The outcome is an otherworldly excursion through our deepest states of unconsciousness. For a person so sonically inclusive, Until the Quiet Comes further catapults Ellison into the cosmos and away from all things terrestrial. He’s the king of his domain, and there is no runner-up.