On November 15, experimental producer Flying Lotus quietly released this EP as part of a series for Warp Records. Consisting of four tracks, the EP was recorded more than 9 years ago in London, around the time his Cosmogramma album was unveiled.
Over the last decade and a half, Flying Lotus has established himself as one of the boldest and most technically skilled producers in instrumental hip hop, pushing the genre to its outermost limits. Influenced by fellow beatmakers Madlib and J Dilla, as well as jazz musicians like Herbie Hancock and Alice Coltrane (who happens to be his great aunt), his output is among the most diverse in recent memory. His songs have an incredibly distinct feel, and yet none of them sound the same. He arguably became one of the defining figures in independent music over the first half of the 2010s, releasing four spectacular albums over the span of five years: Cosmogramma, Duality (under his rap alter ego Captain Murphy), Until the Quiet Comes and You’re Dead!. The latter is perhaps his densest and most complex to date, featuring a strange mix of uninhibited free jazz and glitchy electronic beats. It’s a spectacular album that includes the best song of the decade in this reviewer’s mind: “Never Catch Me”, a lightning fast two parter featuring a monumental Kendrick Lamar verse. In addition to all this, his record label Brainfeeder has put out some phenomenal work like Kamasi Washington’s modern jazz classic The Epic and Thundercat’s Drunk.
After the release of that record, Flying Lotus slowed down quite a bit. Aside from major producing roles on To Pimp a Butterfly and Drunk, he didn’t release any proper solo music for another two years. (Not counting his contribution to the baffling Star Wars: Headspace compilation album or his god awful remix of the Twin Peaks theme.) Part of this was because he was working on his debut film Kuso, a body horror that was labeled the grossest film to ever play on Sundance. His musical drought ended with the single “Post Requisite”, which many thought indicated an imminent full length release, but it wasn’t until early 2019 that he announced his next LP: Flamagra, billed as a concept album about fire.
Needless to say, the anticipation was high. The singles that released beforehand seemed like good signs: “More” featuring Anderson .Paak and “Black Balloons Reprise” featuring Denzel Curry featured some of his best straight forward rap production to date, and “Takashi” demonstrated his tremendous talent for creating groovy, jazz-heavy breakbeats. “Takashi” was in fact the longest song he had released up to that point, which seemed to calm the nerves of some who worried Flamagra’s 67-minute runtime would work against the album.
Unfortunately, those worries came true. While Flamagra is not without its standouts, it was indeed overlong and bloated, and felt unfocused in a way that his previous tighter albums didn’t. There were few memorable songs, and the star power on display with the numerous features simply didn’t do enough. It all just felt like a big disappointment.
Which brings us to this EP’s release. Recorded for the BBC with a live band featuring the ever present Thundercat, Ravi Coltrane, and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, it includes 4 tracks and runs a little over 20 minutes. The first track, a cover of “MmmHmm”, evokes the same dreamy atmosphere as the studio version, featuring Thundercat’s shaky yet comforting falsetto and a brilliant sax solo. The next, “Golden Axe”, is a previously unreleased, haunting instrumental that showcases the talents of the live band, especially Thundercat. It’s pretty, even if it doesn’t really go anywhere. “Tea Leaf Dancers” follows, jazzier and less bass heavy than the version on Flying Lotus’ debut EP, Reset. The EP closes with “Drips”, an all-out jam session on which Ravi Coltrane on sax steals the show.
Overall, the EP showcases a lighter, less heavy side of Flying Lotus, and serves as a suitable recovery from the disappointment of his earlier album.
Listen to it on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/0O9UrgJQ5yvssolWuEo7ve