As the transition into fall surrounds us here on the Hill, I have been looking and listening forward to new album releases while not forgetting the past: e.g., the golden year of 1982. I shall begin with the changes now upon us.
Out Oct. 2, Steven Ellison’s a.k.a. Flying Lotus new album is a presentation of rich electronic textures over the top of which plays bells, harps, guitars, auxiliary percussion and voices including that of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. During the past decade, Ellison has been instrumental in the development of the hip-hop scene in Los Angeles and his latest release evidences this fact.
Until the Quiet Comes opens with an ethereal sound of harp arpeggios accompanied by beats, shaker and synthesizer. This rather effective atmospheric quality remains throughout the first half of the album, shimmering within each track.
A change occurs at the crux of the work. The mechanical and otherworldly mood of the opening tracks gives way to a more earthy sound presented in “DMT Song” through syncopated beats and lush string accompaniment. The album comes alive through these contrasts and its seamless transitions create a very comfortable and balanced divergence of material, reflective of Ellison’s background in hip-hop/jazz fusion.
Flying Lotus’ album is a continuous work that makes it difficult for one to pause the music at any certain point. Without strong cadences, Ellison is able to lure his listeners in with a steady yet ever-changing tone. If you are hoping to hear his new album and I recommend you do so, it will be available on NPR Music http://www.npr.org/music/ for the next few days and will be released by Warp Records on Oct. 2. Unfortunately, Flying Lotus will not be stopping by Minneapolis on his upcoming tour; however, if you happen to be in Chicago over fall break, you can catch him at the Metro on Oct.16.
Although Ellison will not be gracing us with his presence, one of my favorite artists, Laurie Anderson, will be performing at the Walker Art Center in early November. I bring Anderson up because she is a pioneer in electronic music and made possible much of what Ellison created on his forthcoming release. If you get the chance, I recommend you listen to her pivotal work, Big Science 1982. The album contains her most well known track, “O Superman For Massenet.” A combination of minimalist ostinato, melody spoken into a vocoder, saxophone and bird sounds, the song creates a similar ethereal mood to that heard in Flying Lotus’ new album. The dark mood of this piece is paired with that of the opening track, “From the Air,” and many others on the album. However, Anderson balances their seriousness in both music and content with lighter, horn-filled tracks such as “Example #22.”
Laurie Anderson’s work remains significant not only for its musical innovations, but also for its political statements. She performed “O Superman” at a concert in New York a few weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. She spoke the original lyrics on this night: “This is the hand, the hand that takes / Here come the planes / They’re American planes. Made in America / Smoking or non-smoking?” Anderson claims these words, when premiered in 1982, were commentary on the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-80. After performing the piece during the aftermath of 9/11, the lyrics have gained new topical significance. If you have not heard this track and have interest in either of these times in our history, I advise you to listen closely to Anderson’s album.
I certainly hope that if you decide to listen to my recommended pairing of albums, you enjoy them both very much.