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Live Review: Flying Lotus, Om Unit, Silent Jay

14 March 2014 | 10:29 am | Sky Kirkham

While not quite as impressive as the last tour (live band in tow), this is still a remarkable performance, and to pull off two such different shows so well… let’s just say expectations are even higher for next time.

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Dubbed Layer 3, this tour sees Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) in full audiovisual mode, ensconced between two screens, each with their own discrete projections as Strangeloop and Timeboy create an improvised 3D animated world around him.
This means that the stage is completely occupied by screens for the rest of the night though, and the other artists are relegated to the side of the venue. Silent Jay produces some nice cuts, but the set-up of the venue leaves the early DJs feeling like an afterthought and what amounts to a screensaver projected onto the main stage doesn't help.
Om Unit starts his set soft, with simple melodies and pads, before gradually adding in scattered hats. Over the next 15 minutes he builds the vibe masterfully, as the beats drop in and the music shifts almost imperceptibly into quite heavy jungle. It feels a bit risky to try dancing anywhere near the many steps of The Hi-Fi, but a large chunk of the crowd quickly push forward to join the (relatively safe) bottom level, and the area front of stage is soon packed with people trying to move. Towards the end of the set, Om Unit drops a massive forthcoming single (on Metalheadz) and as he moves into a Machinedrum track the set peaks just as Flying Lotus takes the main stage.
It's hard to tell whether it's production, gear or better mixing, but even with the solid supports there's a massive step-up in the quality of the sound as soon as Flying Lotus starts. The more experimental pieces have been left aside tonight, in favour of his wonky, bass-heavy tracks and hip hop production work, although there are still cuts from Until The Quiet Comes, Pattern+Grid World, and Cosmogramma. Even well known tracks see some live reworking, and when Ellison cuts out the beats on Putty Boy Strut, the audience is happy to fill them back in.
Before long Ellison appears, side-of-screen, spitting rhymes as he takes on his Captain Murphy persona and treats the crowd to some of his own MC work. The set continues to flit between Flying Lotus and Captain Murphy tracks (Between Friends is a particular highlight), and while it feels slightly unfocused, this may be the only way to present a real overview of the remarkable scope of Ellison's recent back catalogue. Meanwhile, the visual show is just as impressive as the hype suggested: twin layers swirling hypnotically in response to the changing rhythms. While not quite as impressive as the last tour (live band in tow), this is still a remarkable performance, and to pull off two such different shows so well… let's just say expectations are even higher for next time.