What a year it has been for Steven "Flying Lotus" Ellison. In May he released Cosmogramma, a widely acclaimed album that is seemingly on its way to numerous 2010 year-end lists. He expanded past his underground base and gained access to name-brand artists like Gucci Mane and Kanye West. And critics finally began looking past the whole Coltrane lineage thing -- as in, "Oh yeah, this guy might actually warrant some attention based on his own merits." Yet Ellison continues to hustle as if none of these developments happened. Lucky for you, that means more music. Less expected, though, are the results.
The resultant Pattern+Grid World EP is a surprisingly formed and distinct work. Cosmogramma floated briskly from idea to idea like a gentle blend of coke and weed that oscillated between idea bursts -- fruity Nintendo loops ("Clock Catcher") suddenly spun into spacey fusion ("Pickled!") -- and longer zone-outs ("...And The World Laughs With You"). This EP, on the other hand, maintains a remarkably steady pace. Sure, Knife-lite wistfulness ("Kill Your Co-Workers") provides a counterpoint to throbbing, synthesized dreams ("Clay"). However, each song breathes evenly, so the seven-song cycle pulses like an even heartbeat. Where Cosmogramma felt like the eye of a medicated storm, Pattern+Grid World floats down gradually like a smooth descent.
That Pattern+Grid World has such a coherent character is remarkable considering that most EPs serve as an appendix or a bonus reel. Instead of tossing off interstitial, between-album scraps, Ellison has done what most artists should do with the extended-play format: create a mini-album. Every song has its place and works together to form a tangible flow. In this context, even the previously Killer Mike-assisted "Camera Day" becomes not just a welcome instrumental version, but a necessary sedative break between the menacing "Jurassic Notion/M Theory" and manic "Physics For Everyone!"
The irony of all this is that the overall affect of Pattern+Grid World is not as overwhelming as Cosmogramma. It is certainly a welcome trip, but packs the satisfaction of a long weekend getaway: so necessary, but could have been longer. Thankfully, we'll have a longer trip in the coming months.