"[H]appy to pen music here that slips into the background, allowing guest vocalists to take centre stage."
“Always different, always the same,” was what legendary DJ John Peel used to say of The Fall, but with the passing of Mark E Smith that mantle might now pass to Steven “Flying Lotus” Ellison. Ellison maintains a sound and cosmic vision that’s both individual and instantly recognisable. But nearly five years on from his last full-length statement, the conceptual epic You’re Dead!, there are subtle changes afoot.
The devotional jazz influence inherited from his grand-aunt Alice Coltrane impacts from the opening track Heroes through instrumentals like Takashi with their gentle astral-planing vibe. But for the most part, Ellison seems happy to pen music here that slips into the background, allowing guest vocalists to take centre stage, similar to his joyful production for Thundercat’s Drunk. Ellison’s knack for finding just the right mood and tone to suit the vocalists’ personality is finely honed, from the crazed ramblings of David Lynch to the pristine elegance of Solange.
Although Ellison no longer seems to be driven to dazzle and overwhelm as his mixed media live shows do, this natural development indicates he will continue to bloom for many seasons.