Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

January 01, 1970



Every decade or
so, an artist comes into the public periphery and just changes the way we
collectively perceive how music is created. Steve Ellison, who goes under the
name Flying Lotus, has been that
artist for the late part of the 2000s. Given his familial lineage, it should
come as no surprise. Ever since FlyLo burst onto the scene in 2006 with his
debut 1983 (named for the year of his birth), it has been duly noted in the
press that his great-aunt is legendary jazz pianist/harpist Alice Coltrane. And on his latest
album, Ellison delivers a fitting tribute to his auntie on his amazing new
album Cosmogramma, expanding upon the
nature of his unique IDM-gone-B-Boy sound that has earned big fans in everyone
from Thom Yorke of Radiohead to Lil’ Wayne.  


Through the
utilization of live instruments threaded into the mix of this 45-minute “space
opera”, FlyLo maps out a sonic genealogy directly inspired by the genius of the
late Mrs. Coltrane by employing many of the meditative and spiritual approaches
to musical composition his great aunt had employed on in her own work. Several
tracks here, most notably album opener “Clock Catcher”, “Intro/A Cosmic Drama”
and the mesmerizing “Recoiled”, feature the nimble excellence of harpist
Rebecca Raff intertwined within the experimental polyrhythms FlyLo delivers
here; elsewhere Ellison and Raff work in tandem with in-demand West Coast
string arranger Miguel Atwood-Ferguson,
famous for Suite for Ma Dukes, his
stirring tribute to noted FlyLo hero J. Dilla, on such numbers as “Zodiac Shit”
and a second revision of “Auntie’s Harp” (here paired with a track called
“Drips”), which originally closed out Lotus’ 2008 Warp debut Los Angeles. Atwood-Ferguson also lends
his lush stringplay to “Do the Astral Plane”, featuring orchestral swells so
rich they sound as if they were sampled off an old Alfred Newman MGM film


However, the pair
of cuts that serve as the most fitting testament to his jazz heritage and
surely have Auntie Alice smiling down on her great nephew from up in Heaven
have to be the ones featuring FlyLo’s elder cousin Ravi Coltrane on tenor saxophone. Both “Arkestry” and “German
Haircut” find Lotus digitally manipulating free-form drum breaks that echo his
aunt’s and Great Uncle John’s old bandmate Rashied Ali as Ravi delivers some of
the most celestial blowing of his near-twenty year career, temporarily
transforming Cosmogramma into a 21st century version of Trane and Ali’s 1967 duo masterpiece Interstellar Space. Those jams between the two cousins are
undoubtedly the finest moments on here, far surpassing the one track that
everyone is making a hoopla over, “…And the World Laughs With You”, a murky
dubstep ditty featuring guest vocals from the aforementioned Mr. Yorke that is
decent enough, but it barely fits in with the overall thread of the album on a
thematic level.


While many
multigenerational artists tend to shy away from the shadows of their elders, it
is nothing short of incredible to hear this immensely talented figure in the
brave, new world of West Coast hip-hop embrace his legacy with open arms and
usher his legendary aunt’s message of universal consciousness for a whole new


Standout Tracks: “Arkestry,” “Do the Astral Plane, ” “…And
the World Laughs With You” RON HART



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