Flying Lotus has been consistently gaining momentum among music enthusiasts, from thoroughly schooled sound technicians to gloss-focused dance-floor regulars. Since an early bootleg, some Adult Swim bumps, and a couple of EPs, bloggers are quickly learning his oft-swapped remixes, which span from Mr. Oizo to Madlib, are good–really good–and perhaps the reason Warp is pushing Los Angeles as a thrilling next step in the budding career of a genius.
Flying Lotus can make beats pop like few others. His tracks are steeped in the pointedly loose boom-clap of stonier Madlib tracks or Slum Village-era Dilla. Speaker-busting analog sweeps, crumbly vinyl lounge percussion, and bucketloads of compressed tape hiss are also constants in his work. He sometimes brings to mind Daedelus, though his production has a lot more heft than Alfred Weisburg-Roberts has ever been able to maintain.
Los Angeles is hardly a departure from any of these motifs. Stylistically, the record lies somewhere between his loungier 1983 on Plug Research and his less pensive Reset EP on Warp, which found Lotus a bit deeper on the hip-hop side of things. Los Angeles is constantly awash in fat synths and bursts of aged drum and voice samples; everything is as loud and warm as possible, yet nothing ever climbs through the mix as a central focus.
The sonic consistency of the record is a blessing and a curse. Flying Lotus is a brilliant producer, bringing a warmth and punch that at times rivals that of the masters he emulates. He is a master of new-school production, as all of his sounds seethe just under distorting in a world that sounds perfectly analog, but could very well be entirely digital. The opening tablas on “GNG BNG” are instantly exciting–it’s one of my favorite sampled sounds I’ve heard this year. Yet in creating records that are so thick, he often fails to create the cadences that make, say, a J-Dilla beat timeless.
Los Angeles is the kind of record you can be six tracks deep into and think you’re still on the first song. Indeed, in terms of sonics, this may be Lotus’ very intention, and it’s certainly what “Flylo” fans like to hear. It does manage a nice arc in terms of overall pacing, with some interesting though not entirely successful vocal works at the end (“Testament” and “Infinitum”). Yet the album feels a bit too similar for how crowded it is. From a compositional standpoint, with such great ears behind the board, I can’t help but wonder what he’d be capable of if he’d left himself a bit more room to breathe.