Flying Lotus: You're Dead
Support - Kutmah and Shabazz Palaces
Thursday 30th April
The past five years have seen California born Steven Ellison solidify himself as one of hip-hop's most experimental and consistently game-changing producers. Having released the award winning and expansive Cosmogramma in 2010, Ellison has racked up the collaborations, an eclectic range spanning Thom Yorke to Snoop Dogg, proved his ground as a producer for the likes of Odd Future's Hodgy Beats and rap's new saving grace Kendrick Lamar and even launched his own radio station in Rockstar's GTA V. Of course, you probably know him better as Flying Lotus and he's back to take you on a journey through your own mortality with You're Dead!
After a (kind of) last minute and (kind of) heartbreaking venue change from Manchester's sprawling Albert Hall to Academy One, You're Dead! landed in the city a few weeks later than planned, though this only heightened the hype. Walking into the venue at early bells I was greeted by a giant, translucent white cube, ominously dormant and seemingly below the radar of one of my favorite Manchester DJ's Johnny Dub, spinning some introductory beats to the slowly filling room. This cube would remain unspoken and still throughout the two following support slots from the brilliant Shabazz Palaces and Kutmah, a small podium and control surface just visible past the wave of arms and heads rippling across the space. Almost as the last few centimeters of the floor filled out with bodies, the lights dimmed, sparks danced along the frame of the centerpiece and out stepped Ellison, his face hidden beneath a mask, eyes glowing an off white. "Oh my friends, You're Dead!".
Finally the true purpose and magnificence of the stage set was revealed. As the epileptic and frantic jazz fused melodies of his new album's opener Theme exploded into the stratosphere with a force that can only be described as supernatural. The once dormant, cubic monolith morphed, with aid from a well placed projector, into expansive and evolving motions of neon neurons and blue electricity before finally settling on a name, Flying Lotus. From beneath his mask and scrawled in reverse as he looked out from behind this contraption, Ellison must have been proud of what he's pulled together this time around. From here the set began on a sprawling descent into vivid fractals and pulsating patterns intertwined seamlessly with Fly Lo's rapturous explosions of sawtoothed bliss and sharp, attacking hip-hop beats. Ellison's musical palette has been varied from his beginnings, but it really feels as though it's now that he's found his colours. Frantic and unpredictable jazz sections undercut with serious hip-hop bass, alongside other-worldly string and synth arrangements that fall into jagged and reckless melodies. The set could have been easily enjoyed by both tthose out for a soundtrack to a night of hedonism, or the musical sensibilities of those a little older and more weathered, in fact I saw both these examples, and countless more within the crowd.
The live show for You're Dead! may be the most believable representation of what tipping over the abyss at the end of life may be, an equally ecstatic and terrifying descent through whirling colours and bleak images, through uplifting sonic memories and ominous musical accents. Stood in the center of this space, staring at this cube, presently lit in an emerald glow, Steven Ellison takes on the persona of mad professor, guiding us through the glitch. The last note dug into my notepad, pressed in from the depths of the crowd, seems to sum up the experience for myself. The most involving, trippy, hyper-realistic live show I have ever seen, the perfect audio-visual translation of a journey to another realm.
Words by Sean Toohey
Images courtesy of KM Photography