Flying Lotus
Cosmogramma


4.0
excellent

Review

by Michael Jordan (GoAT) USER (6 Reviews)
May 31st, 2010 | 50 replies | 9,244 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Flying Lotus places heavily electronic, sample-based music back on its true path – that of the exploration of the interstellar stretches of the human imagination, utterly removed from the human itself.

11 of 12 thought this review was well written

Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma, released in March 2010, is the most promising sign for the future of heavily electronic, sample-based music to have appeared in recent years. Drawing on a variety of musical influences, the album achieves an uncanny synthesis of ambient loops, spliced vocals, and techno and hip-hop beats. Most impressively, none of these elements seem to be chosen at random, in an arbitrary or capricious fashion. Rather, each component is selected according to a careful, exceedingly systematic vision of the whole it is to constitute. As a result, none of the sections feel forced or careless. Indeed, the peculiar constellation of elements that appears on Cosmogramma grooves and flows with extraordinary ease, contributing to an overall effect that recaptures the cosmic hugeness that the best electronic music always sought to express.

Cosmogramma’s most characteristic combination can be found in its juxtaposition of overtly ambient or electronic sections with jarring, disjointed hip-hop rhythms. Tracks like “Intro/A Cosmic Drama” and “Zodiac Shit,” which appear one after the other, are perfect examples of this pattern. The former sets the stage for the latter, opening up a lush atmosphere with harps and strings and radio drones. Onto this, “Zodiac Shit” transposes a spheroid bell, a starry luminescence. Behind its glimmering sway, however, arises the big-drum sound of a ’90s hip-hop backbeat, set in an unusual syncopation. This formula reappears toward the end of “Recoiled,” where delicate strips of synthesizer ambience and the descending glides of a harp are overlaid with a pounding, frenetic drum section. It again shows up on “Drips/Auntie’s Harp,” which might be the example par excellence of this technique on the record. On this track, the wavering string section of “Intro/A Cosmic Drama” is reprised, this time joined by PacMan-esque electronica and a grooving drumbeat. Somehow, Flying Lotus is able to retain a certain warmth in the programming of his drum sounds. No matter how messy they might sound, they never slip into the abrasive æsthetic of industrial music. This drum quality sets Flying Lotus apart from artists who have pursued similar methods, like the later Aphex Twin, whose drum sound is usually cleaner, sharper.

Although vocals factor into Cosmogramma, they always feel like more of an afterthought, and never approach anything close to what might be called “singing.” Instead of presenting a continuous, sustained vocal line, the human voice enters in only in fragmentary form – in faded wisps or the disconnected jerkiness of the intercom. Thom Yorke’s vocals “…And The World Laughs With You” are presented in such a manner, broadcast over a faintly pulsed synth progression that’s somewhat reminiscent (on purpose, no doubt) of Radiohead’s “Morning Bell.” In one of the Cosmogramma’s best tracks, “Table Tennis,” Laura Darlington’s voice is feathered over a seemingly infinite space, with all the affected detachment of an air control operator. Other times, spoken verses undergo gross digital distortion, as in “Satelllliiiiiteee,” the stretched spelling of which mirrors the warped vocals that appear on the track. The one time the vocals aren’t filtered or otherwise mediated is on “Do the Astral Plane,” and even here, the point is hardly the lyrics; instead, it’s one of the most antique forms of glossolalic nonsense, big band scat of the 1930s. Throughout the album, the most human element of all music, the voice, nowhere appears in its most immediate, natural quality. While it is not altered beyond recognition, it is invariably subjected to an extremely refined and deliberate mediation. Neither are the words being spoken important to the album’s overall effect. Far from all this being an indictment, however, it is rather one of the album’s great strengths. The alienation this produces fits perfectly with the record’s vibe.

While Flying Lotus can’t be said to have invented any of these techniques (most of them having been employed in techno for over twenty years now), he implements them to masterful effect, enhancing Cosmogramma’s hyperfuturistic ambience. The album fearlessly charts the daunting, galactic spaces of the universe – thoroughly set off from the human. As its name suggests, it offers a fractal image of the universe, a cosmogram. This is not entirely new territory for electronic music, but Flying Lotus tests its limits, with dazzling consequences. What makes Cosmogramma possibly more important is that it marks a return to the cosmic, ultramodern ambition that belonged to earlier electronic projects. In this respect, it stands as a welcome corrective to the recent passéist, “down-to-earth” tendencies of records like Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. Cosmogramma places electronic, sample-based music back on its true path – that of the exploration of the interstellar stretches of the human imagination, utterly removed from the human itself.



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user ratings (988)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
Andy Antar (5)
Ellison's stranglehold on mood is vice-like and quickly tightening. Flying Lotus is the face of a ne...

Jared W. Dillon (5)
Flying Lotus strives for perfection and achieves it with "Cosmogramma"....

gasmaskman (4.5)
I need to know you're out there, I need to know you're listening...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Mordecai.
May 31st 2010



8271 Comments


dude, Space Jam 2...

DO IT!

SeaAnemone
May 31st 2010



19763 Comments


cool read... last sentence is especially epic

Digging: Towers - Bel Air Highrise Plantation

Foxhound
May 31st 2010



4570 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

will read this eventually.

Bulldog
May 31st 2010



3796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

good review MJ.

MichaelJordan = the next kingsoby1

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 31st 2010



30905 Comments


I like this review, but it kinda reads like stereo instructions

Digging: FaltyDL - In The Wild

Slipping Away
May 31st 2010



1261 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good one MJ, pos'd

Mordecai.
June 1st 2010



8271 Comments


[img]http://novoscene.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/space-jam.jpg[/img]

BEST.MOVIE.EVER.

Bitchfork
June 1st 2010



7584 Comments


MJ, check out James Blake's latest (CMYK) if you like what your summary states.

Zizzer
June 1st 2010



915 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Haha didn't Space Jam have that goofy Shawn Bradley guy? And thanks for the review MJ. I found it an interesting read.

ShadowRemains
June 1st 2010



20257 Comments


awesome review, pos'd

i always enjoy reading your reviews

Mordecai.
June 1st 2010



8271 Comments


Space Jam is the best thing Michael Jordan has done other than this review.

Bulldog
June 1st 2010



3796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

i still say hes the next kingsoby1

Mordecai.
June 1st 2010



8271 Comments


shutup

Counterfeit
June 1st 2010



17819 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Space Jam was bomb yo. I'd love a sequel. Except KG comes outta nowhere and knocks MJ tha fuck out.

Nothing against you MJ. Just something I'd like to see.

Mordecai.
June 1st 2010



8271 Comments


If there was a Space Jam sequel i'm pretty sure my life would be complete

Mordecai.
June 1st 2010



8271 Comments


you would destroy KG

Mordecai.
June 1st 2010



8271 Comments


nope, no chance

porch
June 1st 2010



8453 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good stuff

pos

ConsiderPhlebas
June 1st 2010



6157 Comments


Love this album. Great review, man - very interesting way of thinking about it.

NeutralThunder12
June 1st 2010



8742 Comments


Brilliant review MJ. Your best yet, because it DESCRIBES the music. Still a tad too much focus on trying to fit words in there just to fit them in, but the cautious detail in which you described the music made it your best review. Pos.



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