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.
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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.