Tag Archives: Flying Lotus

How Brainfeeder Leads The Charge For Esoteric Funk, Hip-Hop, Pop, & Jazz

Brainfeeder

“Brainfeeder,” the opening track on Flying Lotus’s 2008 album, Los Angeles, pulses with a sense of anticipation. Its flutters of static and sci-fi synths seem to telegraph the idea that something new—something weird, mutant, and markedly different from the hip-hop aesthetic of Lotus’s debut, 1983—awaits within. As the album unfolds, Lotus makes good on that promise, delivering a record so groundbreaking that it warped the fabric of electronic music in lasting ways, pushing the subset of instrumental hip-hop known as the beat scene to inventive new vistas.

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Brandon Coleman’s Debut Album is a Bright Mix of L.A. Jazz, Funk, & Soul

Brandon Coleman

Keyboardist Brandon Coleman remembers the time he first met Quincy Jones. “You won’t be able to create a new piece of music,” he remembered the icon telling him. “His sentiment was that we took from the old and created our own new and that’s probably the only way you can do it.” While Coleman understood the essence of what Jones meant, he didn’t completely agree. “I thought it was bullshit, to tell you the truth,” Coleman says now. “I am no cook, and I don’t proclaim to be a good chef, but I can cook. I know that when combining certain ingredients, you can create something really special—and that’s jazz.”

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Brainfeeder Has Come to Bandcamp

Kamasi

In 2008, experimental producer Flying Lotus launched his Brainfeeder label as a means to release sonically challenging music coming from the Los Angeles beat scene. This was two years after Lotus released his impressive debut album, 1983, which introduced the world to his own blend of jazz-inspired hip-hop and electronica. “As a kid I always thought about starting a label,” Lotus told The Fader in 2015. “I was always interested in the business side and I thought it could be a plan B if things didn’t work out.”

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Album of the Day: The Comet is Coming, “Death To The Planet”

Earth is dying, stewing in its own waste. The sky is an ominous shade of red, a deep crimson-like hue, foretelling our imminent doom. Beneath it, with mere minutes to live, we dance gleefully to the pending apocalypse. These are images that could come to mind when listening to Death To The Planet, the dramatic new EP from British trio The Comet is Coming, whose music blends jazz, cosmic funk, and tribal dance into a thick fluid. Led by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, drummer Max Hallett, and synth player Dan Leavers, the band exudes an intergalactic tone that lands somewhere in outer space, akin to psych-jazz visionaries Sun Ra and Pharoah Sanders. But while those pioneers envisioned space travel as a relaxing trip to nirvana, there’s a stark sense of urgency to The Comet is Coming, a feeling that the end is near and there’s no escaping the despair.

Death To The Planet feels shaded by recent world events, although the music doesn’t address them directly. In an era of “fake news” and mounting political tension, there’s a dark fog looming above these songs, even if the rhythms are fairly upbeat. While the group’s previous record mixed psych-rock and hip-hop with slightly brighter results, Death To The Planet is overtly jazz and techno, equally suited for nightclubs and low budget sci-fi movies. On “Final Eclipse,” in particular, the crew assembles a steady 4/4 beat that grows more turbulent as it unfolds. Near the four-minute mark, Hallett and Hutchings inject squealing horns and gushing drums into the mix, pushing the song to its euphoric peak. It’s not only the EP’s best song, it best epitomizes the record’s disparate ambience: the existential dread and the joy of surrender.

The EP conceives of death the same as Flying Lotus’ 2014 LP, You’re Dead!, which also viewed extinction as a bright journey to the afterlife. “We see death as the first stage of rebirth,” goes a line from The Comet’s album description. “A chance for new ideas, sounds and ways of interacting to grow.” In a way then, Death To The Planet isn’t just about literal destruction; it conceptualizes life after the apocalypse, when the world we’ve known is gone, and it’s time to create new political, social, and economic structures. Not that we can relate to that sorta thing.

Marcus J. Moore

Album of the Day: Elaquent, “Worst Case Scenario”

Having already established himself as a prolific beatmaker with a growing catalog, Elaquent could’ve simply released another collection of sample-heavy, head-nodding instrumentals—that’s how he built his fan base, after all. But on Worst Case Scenario, his latest album, Elaquent delivers a personal work focused on life’s unexpected twists. Scenario deals with the search for inner peace in a world of constant chaos, and learning how to be content when things don’t go as planned. Its songs are transformative, and the album as a whole seems designed to calm and to relax.

Its 12 tracks are full of nuanced beats that contain snippets of Elaquent’s previous work, mostly from the albums The Scenic Route, Less Is More and Good Karma. While he’s always spiked his sound with lush R&B and soul, Worst Case Scenario feels richer and more fully realized, a culmination of the wistful aesthetic he’s strived for over the years. On “Nollieflip,” Elaquent constructs a Dilla-esque stomp, complete with faint keys, floating organs, and rising synths. “Spur of the Moment,” with its heavy drums and cricket chirps, has a strong nocturnal vibe, landing somewhere between Oddisee’s instrumental work and Flying Lotus’ Cali-focused electronica.

Rising singer/producer (and Kendrick Lamar collaborator) Iman Omari adds emotional weight to album standout “Last Breath,” and producers Go Yama and trumpeter Octavio Santos flesh out the jazz-influenced two-step of “Caviar.” Worst Case Scenario is an album that burrows deep into the soul—tranquil music for troubled times.

Andrew Martin

What Happened to Benny B. Blonco?

Benny B. Blonco

There was a time when artists like The Weeknd and Flying Lotus operated behind a veil of mystery; you knew about their music before you knew about the artists themselves. For New York producer Benny B. Blonco, that narrative is reversed: the once-rising composer vanished from the public eye in 2010. No one knew what to make of his sudden disappearance. All that’s left now is a dusty digital archive for beat-heads who crave the scene’s gritty compositions of the late ’00s.   Continue reading

Daedelus’s New Album Was Inspired By Young Thug, Anaïs Nin, and The Percolator

Daedalus

Daedalus. Photo by Gari Askew.

Alfred Darlington has made 17 albums since 1998, and has performed with some of music’s most talented electronic producers—Flying Lotus, DJ Rashad, and Teebs, among others. Darlington—who makes music under the name Daedelus—was an essential part of the Los Angeles beat scene that emerged from the Low End Theory club around 2006, where hip-hop heads fused blunted beats with varied electronic styles.

Still, despite his prodigious output, Darlington says he hits creative roadblocks. “It doesn’t feel like I’m just sitting at a typewriter waiting for the words to come out,” he says, describing how tough it can be to create a new album. “I only try to write music when it calls to me. And oftentimes I find it such a gyre that I feel pretty embarrassed about it.”

Darlington turned 39 on Halloween, three days after the release of his latest album, Labyrinths, which blends the diverse array of electronic genres he’s played the past 20 years as a DJ and producer. He spoke with us at length about the album’s songs, and the people and art that influenced them.

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Album of the Day: Jaw Gems, “Heatweaver”

Producer James “J Dilla” Yancey helped revolutionize the way rap instrumentals are composed. You remember his drums—the way they snapped, and the way they seemed ill-timed, yet perfectly on rhythm. Though his music scanned as hip-hop, Dilla dabbled in soul, jazz and electronica before his tragic death in 2006 at the age of 32. Kanye West and Pharrell have taken sonic cues from Dilla, and producers Black Milk, Oddisee and Flying Lotus acknowledge his influence.

Now add Jaw Gems, an electronic quartet from Portland, Maine. Of the group’s origins, keyboardist Hassan Muhammad says “Dilla is the common thread for how we all met and began playing together.” The group started recording collectively in 2009, and on its new album Heatweaver, you can hear ties to the Dilla’s creative approach—though the end result lands closer to Flying Lotus circa 2008. Heatweaver thrives on that same sort of loose electro-rap fusion, but the quartet’s blend feels light and improvised, skewed more towards jazz. The LP doesn’t lock into a singular groove, pivoting instead between pronounced and ambient soundscapes for a breezy, nuanced listen. On “Side King,” for example, wafting keys conjure pastoral images—you can almost see the sun-drenched beaches, the water washing up the shore. “Lead Sister” evokes similar scenery, yet the vibe is more festive due to a cavernous drum stomp.

Mixing live and electronic elements, Heatweaver feels relaxed, like four friends banging out a few cuts in a home studio just for fun. Albums are tough to pull off without a strong vocal narrative, but Jaw Gems have created a work that’s remarkably visual and nomadic, full of radiant energy that stays with you for its duration. This is the album you play when you want to go somewhere, when the destination doesn’t matter, and the road is unclear. If Dilla laid the blueprint for what hip-hop soul can sound like, Jaw Gems lets it breathe a bit more.

—Marcus J. Moore