I was worried about this one. It can be a pain but experience has taught me that whenever an underground artist I dig starts to pop up everywhere, well, saturation can be a bad thing. So when for the two months preceding the May 4th release of Flying Lotus‘ new album Cosmogramma Lotus was mentioned EVERYWHERE I turned I became a little worried. Add to this word of ‘guest appearances’ on the album and… well, again, that’s the kind of thing that can either be the collaboration of like-minded individuals or the beginning of the end.
I was wrong to worry.
May 4th was the biggest laydown date for music I’ve seen in some time and it damn near left me broke. Mike Patton’s long-awaited Mondo Cane, the Deftones’ Diamond Eyes and Cosmogramma all set me back a fair amount of dough, however, I’m a much happier person for the financial hardship. I may eventually talk about the other albums here, about how all three are marvelous and have made for days of pure listening enjoyment, but right now I’d like to narrow the gaze to Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus.
I find it very interesting that Ellison is the nephew of the late John and Alice Coltrane. I know this has been discussed ad nasuem at this point but I believe it contextualizes several of the guest appearances on the album, most notably Ravi Coltrane (the late great John’s son and Ellison’s cousin). Think about this heritage that Ellison comes to us from. It makes perfect sense that Ellison – Flying Lotus – is, along with groups like DJM Trio, The Foreign Exchange and Visioneers, at the forefront of the next epoch of Jazz music, which coincidentally is also the next epoch of Electronic Music and Hip Hop*.
Like it or not, technology is making music converge.
Musicians, when not obsessed with adhering to a rigidly defined profile, style or marketing agenda, overflow between the genres. They transmogrify what has come before them, their influences, with their dreams and imagination, now largely possible through technology, and we get SpaceDub** tracks from Lotus that sound like they were recorded in a Brooklyn third floor studios in 1977 with live bass, sax and harp or you get chill, down-tempo trip-hop beats with Ella-esque vocals from Jay Scarlett or, going back about ten years but still bitingly fresh, you get St. Germain and his dance/dub/jazz fusion.
In keeping with these ideas of musical transcendence*** Cosmgramma definitely transcends the dub-genre and boldly announces that yes! Jazz, a music born of the greatest musicianship with a bent for the improvisational, can live side by side with the ever-mutating electronic artistry that technology and personal genius, genius like that of Steve Ellison, can promote.
Long Live Original Music!!!
* Real hip hop please. black eyed peed and jayz are to hip hop what green day is to punk rock.
** I’m coining this term because an artist such as Flying Lotus, and other such as Burial, are too good to be lumped into Dub Step, even if only for referential langual simplicity. Lotus has a cosmic side and it is from that I take the name.
*** Transcendence: a very important idea to John Coltrane as well and here’s that heritage idea again. Coltrane, whose career swallowed and
begat newer and stranger versions of itself every few years.