In 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into orbit. In 1969 Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins became the first human beings to walk on the surface of the Moon. About half a century later, it has become evident that these remarkable feats of human innovation and imagination still affect our culture today. Steven Ellison’s (a.k.a. Flying Lotus) latest full-length Cosmogramma is proof that the Space Race is still very alive today.
The album begins in unrelenting fashion. Ellison wastes no time or energy easing us into this experience. “Clock Catchers” is the spaceship set to light-speed, and before we know it, we are somewhere we have never been before. After a much too brief journey through meticulous and brain tingling beats, we are left without a doubt that what we have heard was something special and labored over, a true gem for the ears.
Half way through the record, we find ourselves back on Earth for a short time with a special appearance by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on the track “…And the World Laughs with You,” the most lyrically laden joint on the record that will no doubt be a favorite. Yorke’s repetitious, lonely crooning of “I need to know you’re out there somewhere” provides a rare human vulnerability that isn’t really found anywhere else on the album.
“Recoiled” is one of the most impressive arrangements on the record. The song begins slowly with what sounds like a jazz composition in reverse and the deconstruction of a drum set that almost lulls the listener to sleep, but after two minutes the weight of the piece kicks in. A white-noise hum that sounds like both rain and static drizzles in behind a bombardment of tribal drums and plumes of choral and mechanical waves of sound. You will have a difficult time discerning the artificial from the natural.
Ellison seems to have finally become comfortable in his genius. His sound is no longer comparable to others that came before him. His influences are less present on this album; rather, they sit in the distance, almost as far-away memories to remind us of how this beautiful musical plateau was reached. Ellison is doing more than just reaching into the cosmos here. He is grasping something and bringing it back to Earth for our listening pleasure.
Cosmogramma is a giant leap for music. It is no doubt a snapshot of the future to come.
8.9 / 10
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