Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Intersection: Flying Lotus — Cosmogramma

The Intersection is an occasional feature on JazzWrap that looks at artists that blend jazz with electronica (a tradition pioneered by none other than Miles Davis on such classic recordings as On The Corner).

This week's focus is Flying Lotus's
Cosmogramma (Warp Records, 2010)

Much has been said about the influence of jazz on abstract hip-hop deejay Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison). His aunt is the legendary Alice Coltrane, so it's an easy case to make. IMHO, though, "electronic jazz" would be a gross oversimplification of what you'll hear on his latest offering, Cosmogramma — an excellent album that defies easy categorization as it flies against the conventions of such genres as nu jazz, clubjazz and the like.

FlyLo's sampledelic beat creations take inspiration from a host of genres from the past (exotica, library, early electronic, soul, soundtracks) and present (dub step, d'n'b, left-field, IDM). At times he reminds me of Amon Tobin, Daedelus, Xploding Plastix and other electronica artists who seem to draw up on a wide variety of older styles to serve
a hyper modern aesthetic.

The tracks that come closest to jazz ("Recoiled" and "Do the Astral Plane") do so because of some familiar element (saxophone, scat vocals), not because they especially demonstrate the influence of jazz tradition or improvisation. One of Alice Coltrane's favorite instruments, the harp, also figures in a few tracks, but the effect is more exotic and fantastical than jazzist. By no means is this meant to slight FlyLo's accomplishment. Cosmogramma is an imaginative and transporting album, well worth delving into if you enjoy abstract, experimental electronica.

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