Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!


Paschal M., Reporter

This article is the eighth instalment of a 10-part album review series by Paschal M.

Steven Ellison, better known by his stage name Flying Lotus (or FlyLo) is a Los Angeles-based experimental electronic producer, famous for albums such as Cosmogramma and Los Angeles. However, since his most recent LP You’re Dead!, referring to FlyLo as just an ‘electronic producer’ would be misleading. FlyLo is a visual storyteller, and he manifests those visuals through sound. Imagine You’re Dead! as a mostly silent film split into 19 sections, and those sections are then condensed to ensure that only the crucial elements necessary to create a narrative remain. Unlike his previous works, FlyLo’s fifth studio release has a very clear theme, namely that of dealing with death and the afterlife. The intro “Theme” starts somewhat misleading by setting off as a monotonous succession of low-set fuzzy synths before dispersing midway into a rapid seizure of erratic jazz instrumentals, testifying the album’s unstable character. It sounds like a human on the fringes of death, desperately trying to cling on to the structure and order found in the first half of the track.

However, Flying Lotus approaches the concept of death from a refreshingly unusual school of thought. Instead of presenting death as a dull and desolate wasteland, FlyLo illustrates an afterlife filled with colour and eternally lasting adventure. This is evident on tracks such as “Cold Dead,” which is ironically filled with an electrifying guitar in addition to whirling trumpet sounds, creating a soundscape of energy. “Never Catch Me,” which features lyrics by Kendrick Lamar, further strengthens FlyLo’s idea of embracing death with reassurance. This is also the first track which contains spoken word and a reference to the album title. It signifies that hereafter, that which is being heard is a non-physical, out-of-body experience; an important milestone in the album that furthermore explains why track is in essence a crescendo of the past four tracks. This leads to “Dead Man’s Tetris,” the second rendition of spoken word on You’re Dead!, wherein Captain Murphy (FlyLo’s rap alter-ego) is in denial of being in the afterlife. The majority of the track is a soliloquy where Murphy is puzzled (hence the track title) as to how he continues to be so aware of his surroundings in the ‘great beyond.’ Snoop Dogg makes a guest appearance in the latter half of the album providing a well- flowing verse on his ideas about death. This not only discusses the notion that Murphy is dead, but that Snoop himself is there alongside him.

FlyLo also critiques the Western embodiment of death with the track “Coronus, the Terminator.” The track features Niki Randa on vocals and reshapes the role of death from the grim reaper, a heartless executioner, to a liberator from the physical realm. This, along with “Siren Song” featuring Angel Deradoorian, essentially recounts the release of someone’s ‘soul’ with tender, angelic vocals over dreamy synths. FlyLo maintains a psychedelic element in several songs, such as in “Turtles” and “The Protest”, with spacious production texture. The album’s only weakness is “Descent into Madness,” a track which consists of choir vocals sung over a fairly bland instrumental piece. After this small low point, the final group of acts of You’re Dead! come to a close on a high note, namely on tracks such as “Obligatory Cadence” and “Your Potential//The Beyond” comprised of some of FlyLo’s better tracks, found on LP’s like “Until The Quiet Comes”. FlyLo breaks down traditional genre barriers to produce an album with comprehensive breadth as well as depth, whilst simultaneously creating an avant-garde tale of the immortality that comes with death.