Flying Lotus, or Steven Ellison, has hardly ever stopped progressing. In fact, with 2012’s “Until The Quiet Comes”, Ellison traded in most of his sonically charged trip hop productions for spacy and organic sounding waves of air-like noise, creating quite the listening experience. With “You’re Dead!” Ellison gets back into more of his classic waves, including hard slapping snares and those infamous FlyLo shaker samples. But “You’re Dead!” is also anything but classic FlyLo. Including more Thundercat bass playing than any album prior, Ellison combines his gem of Thundercat with beautiful classic jazz piano progressions and off-set, yet oddly right sounding FlyLo drum parts.
“Cold Dead” and “Fkn Dead” are some of the best examples of this. Two songs in a quick two minutes display some of the hardest “rocking out” on the album, powered by a strong lead bass part from Thundercat and a blissful, angelic piano part. I had to make sure my iTunes wasn’t on shuffle the first time these songs played through, wondering what random song it had jumped to after playing the second track on the album. It’s oddly fun to listen to, jazz fan or not. Ellison doesn’t make it feel like elitist jazz music by sprinkling his hip-hop rooted vibes and Brainfeeder feel over the parts that would be otherwise “too free-form” jazz for me to listen to enjoyably.
The album occasionally has brief blips of A.D.D. as it flows briefly into abstract waters. Take “Turtles”, a two-minute interlude at track #11. Unlike most of the songs on the album, “Turtles” has a childlike playfulness to it, with rainforest like noises echoing and a cute little female vocal part to accompany it. In a much darker way, “The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep” embodies the same. Easily the track that best displays the title, the song depicts being addicted to Percoset and Xanax and the inability to resist the urge for more. The song is also dedicated to a collaborator of Ellison’s who died in his sleep from an overdose of downers. The eeriness of the track reminds me of the sound of tension in Kanye West’s “Addiction” off Late Registration.
I can tell “You’re Dead!” is the album Flying Lotus has always wanted to make. It is sonically jazzy while maintaining the sound of his beloved label and his past works. Whenever I can tell an album embodies what the artist has always set out to make, it makes me appreciate the work even more. I may be biased in my tendency to hone that in, but all bias aside, “You’re Dead!” is an incredibly fun trip of an album to listen to. From it’s highs to its lows, you will find yourself blissfully spacing in and out of this musical rollercoaster. It may be harsh at first, but keep your mind and ears open and see it for the amazing project it is.