Flying Lotus – Club Nokia – October 26, 2012

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Flying Lotus, born Steven Ellison, is a special artists, guiding our ear palettes and rhythmic intuitions into complex and undiscovered territory. This voyage into musical expansion continued on at the beginning of the month  when FlyLo released his new album, Until the Quiet Comes, to critical fanfare. His albums Cosmogramma (2010) and Los Angeles (2008) have cemented his place in the experimental electronic-music scene, and Los Angeles could be regarded as a piece of art metaphorically hanging in the galleries along abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock.  And at Club Nokia last Friday, FlyLo only continued to build “Milestones” on the last stop on his U.S. tour.

 Flying Lotus' stage presence is the evolution of The Birth of Cool.  He has a hipness that is accented by his connection to Alice Coltrane — jazz pianist and John Coltrane's wife.  When FlyLo steps from behind his table and the projection screen, he points to the crowd, as if they were equalizers on his board, and turns one section of the crowd up loud, demanding energy and hype; then he blends in the other sections.  Like his graphics, the audience becomes a mechanism, an extension of the amalgamation of sound and style, hypnotized like cobras from snake charmers.  

What was truly amazing about the show was the way Flying Lotus' graphics synchronized to his tracks.  The dramatic crescendos, the sudden drops, the womping lows all seem to respond directly to the lights, the sci-fi images.  I was immediately reminded of reading about the Grateful Dead bringing psychedelic graphics to the stage during The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.  Then I was reminded of Philip Glass — the great American composer — and his movies like Powaggatsi where image and sound are an unbreakable union.  The images were like something out of Tron mixed with a Kandinsky painting — geometrical shapes growing and exploding into neon, Tetris pieces.  At times, FlyLo's silhouette appeared above the table, and circles flowed around him, giant orbs, as if he was some sort of sorcerer who could emanate electricity from his table.   

Now I know some of that might be a bit nerdy, but let's face it — behind all the hipness, FlyLo is a bit of a nerd, too.  And that's okay, because in today's hipsterized world, the nerd is kind of the cool guy now.  Take for instance the break towards the middle of show when FlyLo sampled, “Get over here,” a famous quote from Scorpion, a character in the video-game Mortal Kombat.  Also, in many of the tracks he played on Friday night, I could hear samples from video games — 8-bit sounds from Nintendo or arcade games.   Plus, the graphics themselves make FlyLo look like he's in the future — as if Blade Runner is his favorite movie (which would be awesome).  At one point, FlyLo said, “I sampled that shit from Killer Instinct.  Don't tell anybody.”  It's a classic Super Nintendo game.  Sorry, FlyLo, it just makes me want to write it more when you say not to.  

But the video-game sampling and sci-fi graphics work, because FlyLo's sound is interstellar, cosmic, in the same way Herbie Hancock made his Fender Rhodes sound like he was communicating with the Aliens from Close Encounters.  While FlyLo's albums are known for the jazz-like sonicscapes, for the most part, the performance at Club Nokia was about making the audience move.  It was about pumping your body with enough bass to make you feel like you took a pill to to turn your head into a helium balloon.  The pit was packed with twenty-somethings, hipsters, scenesters all rubbing up against each other like pistons in a combustion engine.  Nobody really knew how to dance, but as FlyLo played “See Thru to You,” which features Erykah Badu on the album, and a mix of Lil Wayne's, “I Feel Like Dying,” nobody seemed to care.  The night was about being in a moment, a time and place, away from the everyday, until the quiet comes. 

Reporter's Notebook:
Critic's Bias: I'm not the best dancer. 

Overheard in the Crowd: “I got high in 8th grade.”  “Who didn't?” 

The Crowd: Hard to see through the cloud of smoke. 
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