Flying Lotus: Flamagra

2019 / Warp / Beat

The Same Old “FlyLo’s Golden Rule,” With A New Dramatic Twist

Following his “FlyLo’s Golden Rule” which indicates the increase in the number of songs included in subsequent albums, Flying Lotus’s latest release—“Flamagra”—includes a surprising number of 28 songs. It’s important to note that the album’s total playing time also increases significantly to 68 minutes, indicating that the length of each song doesn’t change much. Just like all of his previous releases, Flying Lotus’s latest album contains many songs that are only about 1 to 2 minutes long.

Also known as beat music, Flying Lotus’s songs usually have a short duration and aren’t fit for the dance stage. Though many may find it strange encountering this kind of music at music clubs, participants who’ve gone to Low End Theory’s events would undoubtedly notice this unique style. Audiences will find themselves indiscriminately become closer to others as these melodies (or rather, materials) begin to manifest themselves. Both the beats and chords gradually become empty as both space and time distort. Despite these changes, the frequency remains at the super-low range, shaking the club’s dancefloor.

It’s safe to say that all of the short songs included in Flying Lotus’s previous releases are naturally developed based on Low End Theory’s unique style. However, the release this time is different. It seemed like the music has become more catchy. I wonder if there are any other songs in the past which also include the same style of chord progressing and refrains as the latest ones. Including “Spontaneous” which featured Little Dragon, there are many songs in the new release which leave their listeners hanging, hungry for more as the melodies reach their final notes.

Maybe the key to the songs’ magic lies with the sessions which were written to emphasize the featured guests’ uniqueness. Compared to “You’re Dead!” in the previous release which mostly utilized jams in various sessions to create an exclusive soundscape, Flying Lotus seemed to have reduced his use of jazz in the new songs. Interestingly, the new melodies are filled with harmonic textures found the classical or church music instead. These changes may have some connections with the fact that FlyLo has been practicing with the piano in recent years.

Long story short, the flow of time within Flying Lotus’s latest release is completely different from the previous ones. The sounds have become more dramatic, resembling that of a concept album that features classical or film scores.

Speaking of which, recently, by some coincidence, I’ve had the chance to listen to Yes’s albums from the 1970s and 1980s. At the time, most of the records feature only one large work on each side, making them tedious for many listeners. However, it’s interesting to find out that one could recreate melodies resembling those written by Flying Lotus by cutting a short clip of one or two minutes from these records (It’s the same as how Steve Howe or Chris Squire’s quick riff resembles Thundercat’s agile fretwork). In other words, Flying Lotus’ latest release is the very opposite of what was once the trend of the past. Even though there are 28 different songs in this new album, “Flamagra” can be said to be a chapter of a movie, a masterpiece that none should miss. (Kentaro Takahashi)

A Fresh Flying Spark Born From The Burning Flame Of Passion

Many different rhythms have come together to create a new musical space, banging on the eardrums of the audiences. Such a tinge of uneasiness is how I felt as the melodies from Flying Lotus’s latest release manifest their way into my head. However, in spite of the uneasiness that I felt, the burning flames encompassed within “Flamagra” has been raging as if trying to convey something to the listeners.

“Death” has always remained as one of the key factors in Flying Lotus’s works. A fan of Flying Lotus’s music would probably remember “Cosmogramma”—FlyLo’s requiem for his grandmother’s funeral—and “You’re Dead!”—a song which already contains death in its name. Even in this release, Flying Lotus devoted two of his song as a present for Mac Miller, FlyLo’s friend and collaborator in the song “S.D.S” released in 2013, who passed away last year. In addition to death, “flames”—featured in the album’s MV, artwork, and song titles—are also used as the release this time’s main motif. Within the songs, the MV of “More (feat. Anderson .Paak)”—directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the general director of the TV Anime “Carole & Tuesday” which FlyLo also participated as a music producer—even depicted a person being engulfed in flame. In the MV, the flame raged brightly as if they are trying to drag out a person’s true nature, leaving back only the ashes which are to remain for eternity. Listening to the song dedicated to Miller right after watching the MV, one couldn’t help but remember the aeonian feelings found in “Find Your Own Way Home” and the beautiful dynamic contrast between the stillness and disturbance in “Thank U Malcolm.” It seemed as if Flying Lotus have found the very vestige of “life” as he continuously confronts “death.”

As Flying Lotus has once said: “This album is both a way out from pain and the result from trying to achieve something as one exert to the utmost in pain.” Spanning across various genres, FlyLo’s complicated sounds create various layers of chaos. In all likelihood, the uneasiness that came along with the melodies might have been my own anxiety as my true nature got dragged out. As I keep on listening to the raging flame encompassed within the album, the uneasiness inside me crawls closer and closer to becoming something similar to the vibes coming from “death.” Before I realize it, the uneasiness within me had become elevated, reaching a different stage. However, as I was drowning in between the uneasiness that I felt and “death,” deep inside, I could also feel the elevated touch of “life.” Indeed, the flames, or rather the very touch of “life,” have truly become the way out from pain (“death”).

Even at this very moment, I still find myself bewildered by the question of whether we could truly feel that same touch of “life” as we push on with our daily schedules. However, if we truly want to create something, no matter how trivial that something may be, then “life” would undoubtedly make itself visible to us, helping ourselves to shine brighter. Lying on the extreme opposite with Mac Miller’s last album, “Swimming,” “Flamagra” is, without a single doubt, the very proof for the glittering eternal spark of life that illuminates the dark sea of pain. (Daiki Takaku)

A Chaotic World, Shrunk Into A Single Man’s Hand

Placed on the very opposite pole of his previous release which employed clear and innovative Jazz in its melody, Flying Lotus’s latest release is an artwork that pushes its listeners to the very world of chaos, waiting to see their reactions. The American filmmaker David Lynch’s participation in the album’s production is also an evocative fact. Listening to “Flamagra,” audiences couldn’t help but find themselves dragged into a new space of the unknown, a typical concept in most of the movies which Lynch directed. “Flamagra” is indeed a provocative and unforgettable experience.

Flying Lotus has many times stated his intention of creating the unknown, renovating the old, constrained set ideas. With over 60 minutes of total playing time, “Flamagra” is Flying Lotus’s longest work up until this point. In addition, the album also features a squadron of brilliant musicians including Thundercat, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, George Clinton, Solange, and many others who contributed to the album’s production. This fact makes the album seems even more like a long movie which requires the key characters to be placed in their roles. However, despite the increasing complexity caused by the large number of collaborating artists, “Flamagra,” with its perplexing nature, clearly displays Flying Lotus’s prowess as a talented music producer.

It’s not exaggerating to say that Flying Lotus’s talent isn’t constrained by common sense. One of the prime examples of this saying is “More (featuring Anderson .Paak),” which almost completely transformed into a whole new song with its particular rhythm in just 50 seconds. Carrying the same progression style and principle, other songs are also structured such that they can be woven into the final album. This particular style of Flying Lotus might have come from his experience working as the director for the movie “KUSO” which was released in 2017. “Flamagra” is, therefore, an artwork which strongly imprints FlyLo’s dexterity and expertise in the mind of every audience. (Koki Kato)

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