In the blue corner we have sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke and his laws of prediction, stating in part that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. In the red corner there’s math legend Alan Turing and his big test for artificial intelligence, demanding that computers aptly imitate humans. The prize in this fight? The right to investigate just what the hell is going inside Until the Quiet Comes, a touchstone release from Flying Lotus that transcends his home of L.A., his title of producer and his wide reach across bass music.
There aren’t many electronic artists and albums so capable of mimicking other genres. Sprawling classical, psychedelic folk and even hard rock have over the years spawned a few digital familiars. Until now the finest example of pixelated jazz was likely the German duo, Flanger—meticulous arrangers of microsamples into tropicalia and the well-placed Miles Davis homage. Some of the greatest jazz tiptoes carefully between clutter and artfulness, and Flanger masterpieces like Templates and Midnight Sound seem clean and tidy in comparison to Until the Quiet Comes, Steven Ellison’s fourth album as Flying Lotus.
There are cautious diversions back to what got FlyLo here: “Sultan’s Request” is patient dubstep, “Putty Boy Strut” suggests chiptune bossa nova, and “me Yesterday//Corded” is wobbly, warm R&B. Apart from these few instances, the album takes on the patina of fuzzy memories of studios and stages filmed in black and white or photographed in Kodachrome. Until the Quiet Comes features impossibly dense arrangements of clattering percussion behind soft flute, horn, guitar, vibraphone and vocal improvisations. This is arch-bohemian production, where you find little difference between Erykah Badu’s ghost-soul vocal on “See Thru to U” and Thom Yorke’s on “Electric Candyman.”
FlyLo fully embraces his Coltrane bloodline, and seems to do so with just his own two hands. There are moments that easily suggest great-aunt Alice and friends holding court in a theater, or great-uncle John in one of his later free jazz combos with Rashied Ali. It’s hard to fathom all the sounds on here came from or were selected by Ellison himself. Could there possibly be enough keyboards, MPC triggers and manual techniques to conjure up something that sounds so natural? Please, please let that be the case, because it would make the results sound all the more astounding.