The opening two minutes to Flying Lotus’ 6th studio album Flamagra transported me in a world that was all to familiar, but still mesmerising and absolutely immersive. After the release of You’re Dead! back in 2014, an album that completely shook me to the core. It was a concept album about death, executed with such precision and masterful musicianship, it was difficult for me to fully understand the scope and extent to this man’s genius. It was a warped, psyched out jazz album that, from a composition standpoint, was his most intricate and detailed to date. Coming off of that, I was absolutely hyped when he announced that his first album in 5 years would feature 27 tracks including some amazing features such as Anderson .Paak, George Clinton, Little Dragon, Tierra Whack, Denzel Curry, David Lynch, Shabazz Palaces, Thundercat, Toro y Moi and Solange.
Flying Lotus takes inspiration from a lot of the ideas he has explored within his discography over the years and turned the volume and absurdity up tenfold. What I absolutely love about Flying Lotus is his attention to texture. “Heroes” kicks off the album with an ethereal synth-heavy composition that explodes with the addition of drums and a phenomenal bass solo by Thundercat, who as always is incredible. It then goes into “Post Requisite,” a track that was released during the time he was working on his debut 2017 film Kuso. Taking note from his second studio album Los Angeles, released in 2008, it’s warped beat is phenomenal as it’s both hard-hitting and incredibly soulful. His compositions have always been eclectic and sometimes so off-beat, but the amazing thing is that every single time he pulls it off. Layers of guitar and bass are added on top of synths, with vocal samples giving tracks a tone that sounds both eerie and comforting. Tracks like “Heroes In A Halfshell,” “Inside Your Home,” “Andromeda” and “Remind U,” are all stunning, with the last of the 4 being my favourite. The angelic, spiritual nature of the music is complemented by stunning synths, electronic effects and guitar leads that add so much depth and texture to the records, it’s unreal to me.
There are moments on here that feature more straight-forward boom-bap beats, such as the incredible “More” featuring Anderson .Paak and “Black Balloons Reprise” featuring Denzel Curry. Still full of warped synths and basslines throughout, these tracks are an example of Fly Lo’s diversity in sound and his ability to create hard-hitting beats that slap. The Denzel Curry collaboration is among my favourites on this record, with Fly Lo sampling the iconic Fantastic Planet Soundtrack.
There are moments however, that sound nothing like Flying Lotus has ever produced before. “Say Something” features rich string arrangements from Miguel Atwood-Ferguson which feel like they could be in a Paul Thomas Anderson or Yorgos Lanthimos film. “All Spies” features some heavy synths that feel perfect for Stranger Things or another sci-fi feature film. Especially with it’s pummeling beat, Flying Lotus goes into new territories on this track, sounding as futuristic as ever. “Burning Down The House” is a stunning Funkadelic-inspired track featuring the legend George Clinton himself, who brings his usual off-beat personality to the track. The Tierra Whack collaboration on “Yellow Belly” is perfect in every single way. The beat is stellar, but it’s Tierra Whack’s sense of humour, that fits in perfectly with Fly Lo’s absurdity, and makes me want to hear more from the two talents. “Fire Is Coming,” the David Lynch collaboration is as spooky as you can imagine, as the two reach Twin Peaks levels of weird. The build-up of the beat adds such fantastic energy, but it’s the sonic details of this track that make it special. Thundercat’s vocal and instrumental contribution on “The Climb” is my favourite yet between the two, with intricate basslines, strings and synths throughout. Toro y Moi adds his quirky vocals on “9 Carrots,” a great collaboration. Solange’s feature on “Land of Honey,” however… sublime! The strings are suffocated by the bassline and Solange’s other-worldly vocals that are goosebump inducing. It’s probably the track I’m most in love with at the moment, due to its compositional brilliance, but that will obviously change over time.
I have to mention Mac Miller as well because two tracks are dedicated to him and both are beautiful. “Find Your Own Way Home” and “Thank U Malcolm” are fast-paced and incredibly dense in composition, especially the latter of the two. The former sounds more angelic, as if the heavens were descending on us and taking his body up with them. “Hot Oct.” ends the album out beautifully and powerfully. The theme of the album stems from his film Kuso and a boy at the beginning of the film being captivated by a fire that will not go out. Fly Lo was fascinated by this concept, thinking about what it would be like to live next to a fire forever, and the crazy energy felt throughout this album perfectly complements this theme. According to Fly Lo himself, this album has a perfect loop and can be seen as a prequel to You’re Dead! and a sequel to Cosmogramma. Musically and thematically this can make sense, as the compositions on this record are as sharp as they were on You’re Dead! and as batshit crazy as some of the most eclectic production on Cosmogramma.
I am honestly floored by this man, this genius. Steven Ellison, as Flying Lotus has created an album that is drenched in so many sounds, layers, textures and features that bring so much character and depth of personality. Flamagra is a phenomenal album, and with this one, cements himself as one of the greatest musicians of the past century. All the proof you need is in the music. From 1983 (his debut album released in 2006) to Flamagra, his discography is among one of the most consistent and I cannot wait to play this album to death this year.
Listen to his sixth studio album Flamagra below via Spotify and do not forget to support it!