Descriptions like ‘mind-blowing’ and ‘psychedelic’ have been over-mined to the point where they’ve all but lost their meaning. So, let’s say that LA-based producer Steven Ellison’s third release under the Flying Lotus banner is ‘cliche-free’ instead.
Sounds like faint praise? Then consider this. 99.99% of music released these days relies on a handful of tried and tested tools being applied time and time again, any originality resulting from said tricks being offered in a rarely-heard order. Under these conditions, to encounter a genuinely adventurous, futuristic record – in that it doesn’t bother to reference much in the way of audible inspirations, preferring to construct its own musical language instead, one that happens to sound like it was fashioned by an extraterrestrial being catapulted here from the very distant future - is an incredibly rare treat worth dropping whatever it is that’s diverting your attention at the moment for.
Trying to describe the outpourings of such an untamed musical imagination’s a bit like attempting to get the appearance of a hitherto unseen mythical beast you’ve managed to clasp your eyes on across to others without a picture: individual parts – drums, bass, some mangled vocals, harp, sax, vintage videogame-esque synth squelches - may be comfortingly familiar, but any attempts to summarise the disorientating shapes these ingredients are twisted into here will inevitably fall short of the intoxicatingly alien offerings.
At times, it’s abrasive – ‘Pickled’ bundles berserk beats with what sounds like a slap bass virtuoso attempting a solo whilst careering through a meteor shower. But these are not the wilful abstractions of, say, Autechre: ‘Cosmogramma’ is very much an album to get your groove on to, hyperactive rhythm music tailor-made to match the relentless overload of information we’re constantly bombarded with.
Elsewhere, especially the Thom Yorke-featuring, melancholy highlight‘…And The World Laughs With You’, there’s a soothing hint of the bass-bingeing spirit of dubstep, Burial in particular, but Ellison’s stepped outside the dark confines of the club to gaze at the distant stars in admiring incomprehension. The celestial chimes of Ravi Coltrane’s harp – undoubtedly a tribute to Ellison’s great aunt, the visionary jazz giant Alice Coltrane - anchor a few heavenly cuts, whilst the spellbinding ‘Satelliiiite’ unveils Ellison’s take on R‘n’B balladry. Needless to say, it doesn’t sound an awful lot like R Kelly. There’s a faint glimmer of Ellison’s roots in bong-clutching, horizontal instrumental hip hop, but even the mightiest of MCs would struggle to spot an entry point amidst the wealth of arresting detail on offer here.
Cosmic by name, cosmic by nature, ‘Cosmogramma’ packs an almighty load of that rarest of commodities in modern music: some genuinely new shit. Don’t let this joyfully bewildering shuttle pass you by.