Before the usual suspects get their knickers in a twist, the adjective of this website is “progressive”, and that’s exactly what this album is. Anyone who thinks that progressive is a word confined to a certain type of rock music needs to open their ears.
The above is a lesson in how to reduce your audience by half, and now we’re left with those of us who appreciate boundary flexing in each and every genre, to get down and groovy with this densely packed trip of an album.
Stephen Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, or even FlyLo, is a musical maverick whose influences gather from far and wide, and produce genuinely unclassifiable music. He is the grand-nephew of pioneering spiritual jazzist Alice Coltrane, wife of John. With ancestors like that, Ellison’s extraordinary musical vision is perhaps at least partly explained.
His previous album You’re Dead! made swirling trip hop out of a love of early psychedelic Soft Machine of all things, and what a fabulous thing it was. After that, I just had to buy his latest, and if anything, it is even more out there. This time round, we are sent off on a long exploration into the kaleidoscopic world of Ellison’s febrile imagination, where all manner of sounds pass across the stereo spectrum, drawing on the legacy of his grand-aunt, the cosmic funk of Herbie Hancock, the spaciousness of Miles, urban grit, classic soul, jazz, psychedelia, and pure Princean pop. The inner cover, an art collage of surreal imagery against a star-studded night sky, with a disgorging volcano at its centre, sums it all up quite neatly.
Flamagra presents us with a sense of concept, from the album’s title to the central shaft of fire in the cover art, to the album’s fulcrum, the David Lynch narrated Fire Is Coming. It works best when listened to in one sitting, all 27 tracks and 67 minutes of it. As is the modern way, various guests from the world of urban music appear, with the epithet “.feat” in front of their names. Not being au fait with this scene, being a late-middle-aged white bloke in the UK, I am not familiar with the likes of Tierra Whack, Shabazz Palaces and their mates, but names like that deserve investigating further! There are one or two guests I’ve heard of, and George Clinton appears on Burning Down The House (no, not that one), contributing his instantly recognisable and suitably stoned vocal to the laid-back groove, and of course, the aforementioned film director narrating his typically Lynchian suburban nightmare Fire Is Coming.
Thundercat is the pseudonym of long-term FlyLo collaborator Stephen Bruner, a truly gifted bass player who is something of a 21st Century Bootsy Collins. He contributes his dextrous bass playing to great effect throughout the album, and even gets his own “feat.” as Thundercat on The Climb, so I assume it’s him singing on this one.
Layered sounds of multiple keyboards, samples of found sound from rainforests, sonorous voices, it all combines to take you on a journey that leaves you feeling uplifted, a rare treat in these harsh times. There is so much going on here, it will reveal more on each hearing, an album that will last the course, I’m sure. After the dense soundscapes of You’re Dead!, with Flamagra, Flying Lotus has flung open the stable doors and let the horses stampede their new-found freedom across lysergic plains of dayglo cinematic vistas. In a word, epic!
Quite how Flying Lotus follows this one I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to it already.
01. Heroes (2:44)
02. Post Requisite (2:08)
03. Heroes In A Half Shell (1:17)
04. More (feat. Anderson .Paak) (4:17)
05. Capillaries (1:54)
06. Burning Down The House (feat. George Clinton) (3:03)
07. Spontaneous (feat. Little Dragon) (2:08)
08. Takashi (5:51)
09. Pilgrim Side Eye (1:30)
10. All Spies (1:45)
11. Yellow Belly (feat. Tierra Whack) (3:11)
12. Black Balloons Reprise (feat. Denzel Curry) (2:41)
13. Fire Is Coming (feat. David Lynch) (3:16)
14. Inside Your Home (1:26)
15. Actually Virtual feat. Shabazz Palaces (1:58)
16. Andromeda (1:28)
17. Remind U (2:41)
18. Say Something (1:15)
19. Debbie Is Depressed (2:19)
20. Find Your Own Way Home (1:40)
21. The Climb (feat. Thundercat) (3:15)
22. Pygmy (1:24)
23. Carrots (feat. Toro y Moi) (3:01)
24. FF4 (1:11)
25. Land Of Honey (feat. Solange) (3:27)
26. Thank U Malcolm (1:32)
27. Hot Oct. (4:35)
Total Time – 67:11
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson – Strings (tracks 1,3,12,19,20 & 26)
Ashley Norelle – Backing Vocals (track 4)
Taylor Graves – Keyboards (track 4)
Ronald Bruner – Drums (tracks 8 & 26), Backing Vocals (track 20)
Deantoni Parks – Drums (tracks 19 & 21)
Niki Randa – Backing Vocals (track 20)
Stephen Bruner – Backing Vocals (track 20)
~ with contributions from:
Far too many to list! Check out FlyLo’s website linked below.
Record Label: Warp Records
Country Of Origin: U.S.A.
Date Of Release: 24th May 2019