Touring behind his excellent sixth album, Flamagra, Flying Lotus will delve into his unique world of complex, politically informed sounds.
Flying Lotus will be playing at The National this Saturday, September 7th. Their live show will feature 3D Live’s LED “Ghost Tile” lighting to create captivating virtual worlds specific for each song. There are a whole lot of good reasons for you to be there, and the greatness of Flying Lotus’ latest album is just one of them.
When you press play on “Heroes,” the first track from Flying Lotus’s epic 67-minute album, Flamagra, you’ll hear a fire spirit tell you that “the time of heroes has come again.” Flying Lotus, born Steven Ellison, then chops up a sample from the Dragon Ball Super anime series, which Thundercat (born Stephen Bruner), a friend and signee to Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label, mimics in an explosive bass solo to close the track.
Like his great aunt and uncle, John and Alice Coltrane, Flying Lotus constantly explores new musical territory with each album. Flamagra, the long-awaited follow up to his Grammy-nominated album, You’re Dead!, is certainly no exception. Flying Lotus explained the concept of the album in an interview with Billboard magazine. He explained that after hearing of the wildfires in L.A. and the deadly 2016 fire at Oakland warehouse/artist collective Ghost Ship, he conceived of a self-contained fire that could not be put out, and how such a fire might affect L.A. or any American city. Flying Lotus elaborated on the simultaneous positive and negative aspects of fire, saying, “The things that [fire] does, and how much we need fire and how much we hate fire, is all important.”
While some tracks on Flamagra do explore the dangers of fire, what truly unifies this album is Flying Lotus’s ability to blend hip-hop, jazz, rock, and even European classical music, and to know what specific collaborator is needed for each song.
In the same Billboard article, when asked how he knows when to add an artist to a song, he said, “I think a lot of it depends on the kind of track it is. If you hear phrasing that feels like it needs that element, then it’s clear as day.” Not only did Flying Lotus know to match up the chilling synth sounds of “Fire Is Coming” with David Lynch’s harrowing monologue on that track, he also knew that the dramatic orchestration on “Milk and Honey” would be perfect for Solange’s powerful guest vocal.
In addition to Solange and David Lynch, Flying Lotus hosts an impressive and eclectic group of collaborators on Flamagra including George Clinton, Toro y Moi, Tierra Whack, Herbie Hancock, Robert Glasper, Ronald Bruner, Denzel Curry, Anderson .Paak, and Thundercat.
While Thundercat plays bass on practically every song on Flamagra, the only song he sings lead vocals on is “The Climb”, which contains uplifting and topically relevant lyrics. Thundercat begins the track with an ominous bass line and experimental jazz drummer Diantoni Parks follows with a driving syncopated beat. Lush strings and a percussive clavinet back Thundercat as sings in the second verse, “Most of the things we’re going through make no sense/Even though you feel alone, it’s not the end.”
During the five years that Flying Lotus was writing Flamagra, movements such as Black Lives Matter and MeToo have gained national attention, the Trump administration has separated immigrant families at our borders, and just this past month has seen mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas, Chicago, Illinois, and Odessa, Texas.
In an interview with Apple Music, Flying Lotus discussed the process of writing “The Climb” with Thundercat was directly connected with the injustices in the world. “We started this song the way we start everything: frustrated and depressed about the world, knowing we want to make something that reminds people that most of the chaos out there is just noise,” he said. “Be above all that shit. Be above the bullshit.”
In 2019, it is easy for people to become depressed and fatigued from the constant stories of injustice that come to us through television and social media. It’s easy to feel alone and lose hope for the improvement of American society. But as Thundercat sings on “The Climb,” “It’s not the end.” And if you come to see Flying Lotus at The National on Saturday, September 7, you certainly won’t be alone.
For tickets and further information on this show, visit The National’s website.
Top Photo via Flying Lotus/Facebook
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