Flying Lotus and The Density Of Musical Information

by Thomas Brett

There has been a lot of well-deserved hype surrounding Flying Lotus’ latest record,Cosmogramma.  Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) is one of the leading figure on L.A.’s experimental instrumental hip hop scene, blending beats with experimental textures. His live performances are intense, visceral and physical, and the music has a great, pounding weight to it.  On Cosmogramma, there are about two dozen tracks, most of which are only a few minutes long.  But one of the things I recently noticed about them is how densely they’re layered with musical information.  One track in particular, “Ping Pong”, really exemplifies this.  As you might imagine, the sound of a sampled game of table tennis is woven into the song’s rhythmic fabric.  But there’s a whole lot of other sonic material too, including bubbling synthesizers, outerspace sounds, a woman’s singing voice drenched in echo, and at the very end, some finger-plucked acoustic guitar.  If you listen from a distance, it can all sound like a busy mush, carefree, a little sloppy, loose, psychedelic.  But this is also headphone music.  Listening from close proximity you hear how carefully organized this groovy mush is–to the point where each element in fact sounds pretty intriguing.  In fact, it’s meticulous.  And that’s what I mean by a density of musical information.  Listen to the song here: