Flipping the script
With his new album Until the Quiet Comes, musician, producer, label boss, film-maker FlyLo has turned everything on its head all over again. “I don’t think I’m capable of repeating myself,” he tells JIM CARROLL
IT’S TIME TO get Steven Ellison on the phone and find out where his head is at this time around. A new Flying Lotus album on the way is as good of an excuse as any to check in with the Los Angeles producer and Brainfeeder label boss, especially when we’re talking about the follow-up to the glorious Cosmogramma.
Released in 2010, Cosmogramma was Ellison’s great leap forward. Observers knew from 1983, Los Angeles and Reset that FlyLo had a way about him when it came to dishing up dashing beats. But Cosmogramma was a different, brighter, more enticing proposition.
Over the course of a slew of eerie, dreamy, fuzzy, fizzy and dazzling tracks, Ellison worked out the jazzy, improvised, cosmic sounds he was hearing in his head to create quite a trip. You could hear the influence of the beats which had previously driven his music, but you could also lead a whole lot more besides as Ellison sought to show off some other sides to his musical wash.
What you’ll find on new album Until the Quiet Comes is Ellison putting further structure and shape on the contours he explored the last time out.
Instead of spacey wig-outs, we get sharp corners and focused tunes. There are collaborations with Erykah Badu, Brainfeeder’s Thundercat and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, but, most of all, there’s Ellison flipping the script again.
A repeat of Cosmogramma was never really on the cards, for several reasons.
“That’s the thing with a successful record; it’s there when you go back to work on the next one,” Ellison says. “Part of you don’t want to detour too far away from it because it worked. At the same time, though, if you don’t try something unfamiliar, you’re not challenging yourself. I learned so much already but I felt I needed to do more.
“Then there’s the fact that I don’t think I’m capable of repeating myself.
“I’ve found that if I try to say or do the same thing twice, it just doesn’t work. It would be foolish to try to drink from the same water again and make Cosmogramma 2. I asked myself what felt more honest to me at the moment, and I thought that doing something that felt a little bit more minimal was the way to go.
“I don’t plan this out in advance, the music and the direction just reveals itself as the work goes on. I always think it’s going one way and then, it turns out totally different.”
What Ellison found when he started to work in his Los Angeles home on the new record was that he was “concentrating more on dynamics than straight-up producing” and this mindshift dictated where the album went.
“In a way, that was where my mind was at, and I’ve been getting better at following that. I think I’ve also become a better musician, though I still have to improve myself. I also wanted to get away from doing what people expected from me.
“It’s really frustrating when people have their category that they want to put you in. I mean, I don’t do that with people.”
For Ellison, Until the Quiet Comes is a better reflection of just where he’s coming from, the yin and yang of FlyLo.