[CD Review] Flying Lotus, 'Los Angeles' (Warp)

Flying Lotus (Steven Ellison) is something of a Coltrane: His great-aunt was Alice, which means he has a taste for the outré and, sometimes, the indulgent. Los Angeles is FlyLo turning his dusted synths and even dustier beats into a commentary on life in a city that can be as matter-of-fact as it is epiphanous—just like the album itself.

Los Angeles possesses a lonely, detached quality, though, as if the Blade Runner soundtrack were made by the ruddy toymaker J.S. Sebastian instead of Vangelis. FlyLo tinkers with such rhythm-heavy segues as "Melt!" to recall the tribal dub drums of Lee "Scratch" Perry's Heart of the Congos, but then evolves Dilla's post-Detroit techno sound, with its Pyrrhic victories of hookless, gimp-snare rhythms and cold, wind-chill-factored soul on "Golden Diva," which sounds like early Derrick May on a downtempo tip. Elsewhere, "Parisian Goldfish" and "Comet Course" sound like the best Carl Craig output, with their warbled synths and 100 bpm polyrhythms.

FlyLo raises the stakes by giving his tracks their own sense of micro-drama, and here's where he's also heir to Madlib—for better or for worse. Like 'Lib, FlyLo isn't the best self-editor, so Los Angeles loses sight of the forest for the trees, so much so you forget there's a forest at all. But, boy, what trees. FlyLo can give random sounds a sense of purpose (on the churning, melodic "GNG BNG"; in the skeletal, dubsteppy chanteuse-enhanced soul of "Auntie's Lock/Infinitum"). But at other times, his purpose sounds random: "Testament" just tests your patience for stoned Billie Holiday homages, while "Riot" is a tense, incidental interlude inexplicably turned into a whole track. Like Boards of Canada's rambling Geogaddi and Dilla's Donuts, Los Angeles inspires as much as it frustrates, which is its most enduring comment of all.

 
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