Review Summary: Ellison's stranglehold on mood is vice-like and quickly tightening. Flying Lotus is the face of a new wave.
Its difficult to picture exactly what time dilation would sound like. The shoreline of 'Cosmogramma', with its organic pulse of oft-arrhythmic digitized grime however, would paint it pretty close. With grace and a fairly thin branch in the Coltrane family tree, Steve Ellison navigates deeper into post-dubstep territory, in his effort to craft for an audience an elegantly crude napkin-drawing of the universe. But his soundscape is more than simply a sketch, as it unfolds it becomes a planetary drive-by, a whizzing panning camera across the solar system. Cover artist Leigh McCloskey lets his imagination swell in his descriptions, describing 'Cosmogramma' as "something both modern and ancient". Risky as these labels may be to bear, the intention of the record to fulfill McCloskey's quasi-prophecy is not merely evident, but really quite commendable.
For Ellison, this record is his cosmogram - a geometrical representation of something galactic. It sings a curious song, 'Nose Art' stumbles through a fast moving soundscape, tripping through the pounding, glitching hiss. The flow of it all is astounding, organic samples and adult contemporary hums slip seamlessly into that scat groove of 'Do The Astral Plane.' 'Computer Face//Pure Being' begins with a dubstep stutter before tripping into a pudgy throwback to old-hat hip-hop. It's here that Ellison's self-control shows. Not allowing the garnering momentum of the song to soar, he sets it to skip straight into the subtle loop of Thom Yorke's voice. Although it is the first demonstration of vocal-work in 'Cosmogramma' that is substantial, Thom's contribution is denied a spotlight, the pulse of his lilt given more attention than the trivially high profile of his croon. It speaks volumes about Flying Lotus - those stars in his eyes aren't woozy fanboy fantasies for the music industry, just budding sparks for the 'Cosmogramma' constellation.
A rewarding and lasting glow from this album stems from the solace it conjures. "Drips//Auntie's Harp" hums a hymn of familiarity, a decelerating violin melts into chirping glitches that stretch for intimacy in their pixellated groove. Rebekah Raff stitches it together with the strings of a harp, and the entire emulsion is somehow eventually cohesive enough to even layer in some vocals. It's in these seamless fusions that 'Cosmogramma' blossoms erratically into something inexplicably enjoyable. From it's popping aphotic swamp of noise, the album spits a thousand testaments to the historical marriage of progressive hip-hop and ambient electronics. Ellison's stranglehold on mood is vice-like and quickly tightening. Flying Lotus is the face of a new wave.