Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Flying Lotus: sound and vision

Steven Ellison’s show at Dublin’s Vicar Street last night was a wow in all departments

Inside the Flying Lotus LayerCube. Photo: Glenjamin Han http://www.glenjamn.com/

Thu, Apr 30, 2015, 09:32


There are some shows where what you see can be every bit as engaging as what you hear. We’re not just talking about the big arena and stadium spectacles where the acts have to exaggerate the dimensions of the stageshow to ensure the experience reaches every nook and cranny, but club shows where the act’s visual prompts are going at full pelt. DJ Shadow’s Shadowsphere from a few years ago was one such occurence of a strong live show, with the DJ playing inside a giant sphere onstage and visuals projected against it. Then, there was Darkside’s gigs from last year, with a very simple, minimalist light show amplified by a rotating round mirror. Recently, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s show at Dublin’s Vicar Street was greatly enchanced by what was projected on screen behind the band.

In the case of Flying Lotus last night at the same Thomas Street venue, it was impossible not to be gobsmacked by the show conjured up by Steven Ellison. Here’s a show on a whole different level visually, with Ellison playing from behind a canvas cube which was used as a screen for a serving of mindwarping, high-def, hugely appealing 3D visuals. The LayerCubed show really did make it feel as if the entire venue has been sucked into a particularly vivid, immersive and hyper-visceral video game. That visual side of the show was designed and implemented by David Wexler (Strangeloop) and John King (Timeboy) and you can read more about their work with FlyLo on this project here.

Ellison started off cracking jokes about yokes, but you didn’t need any sort of chemical stimulation to be awed by that side of the show or to get to the next level. Musically, he has long been on a higher plain. His five albums to date have sketched a vastly talented producer pushing the line every time when it comes to the music he makes. Every time you go to deconstruct and delinate the sounds, you end up with a list of genres and musics which don’t bear any resemblance whatsoever to the mutli-coloured wall of sound which Ellison is creating. By drawing from so many wild frontiers and far-flung hinterlands, Ellison’s sound is inevitably and increasingly standing very much alone.

Last night, between bass wallops, jazzy splashes and electronic wiggles of every hue, Ellison pushed and pulled at each song like a hyperactive toddler with the box to a new toy. As a result material from “You’re Dead” sounded far more vivid and contoured than it did on record. When he was joined in the thunderdome by Thundercat, the ante went through the roof, with the bassist’s astral, spacey workouts adding more far side layers to what was coming through the speakers. You often hear or see a show described as “mindblowing”, but last night’s experience redefined what that really meant. Flying Lotus really is in a class of his own at this stage of the game.

(Recent interview with Ellison about jazz and death here and “You’re Dead” is below)