In Hip-Hop and music in general, there will always be artists who play around with different styles of instrumental composition and those who take that premise a bit farther, exploring regions that are rarely touched upon. Flying Lotus is one of those people. Cosmogramma is the third studio album by the California-based producer and continues his unorthodox and highly experimental brand of Hip-Hop and Electronic music. This instrumental album is one that, while definitely a risky experiment, pays off in a big way that makes it a highly enjoyable album to listen to.
Conceptually, Cosmogramma has a highly synthesized feel to it which gives the album an overtly Sci-Fi overtone. Listening to this album makes me feel like I’m being transported to another galaxy as the tunes envelop me in a rich tapestry of digital music. I won’t bore you with overwrought theories of the types of emotions that certain songs evoke while listening to this album but I will say that it’s a truly out of this world experience.
Along with the obvious Hip-Hop and Electronic overtones, it is clear that Flying Lotus also receives a great deal of inspiration from Jazz and Classical music as well and elements of these genres can be heard throughout the album. This unconventional blend of so many different genres is one that could have been a veritable train wreck but it’s all handled with style and grace and prevents it from becoming such a travesty. One song that I particularly enjoyed was Zodiac Shit, a song that starts slowly, with a mellow sort of tone and, near the middle of the song; it changes completely, adopting a much more upbeat tempo. This type of experimentation is one of the main reasons why this album succeeds as much as it does. It’s unexpected and a tiny bit jarring but it works.
Even though this is mostly an instrumental album, there are a couple of rather good vocal performances accenting the great production. Table Tennis, a song that features a repeated sample of a back-and-forth rhythm of a table tennis game going on in the background, which is, in itself, part of the music and lends the track a unique style all its own and when combined with Laura Darlington’s elegant vocals, the song becomes a truly standout experience. Another vocal performance of note is Thom Yorke of Radiohead lends his unique vocal style to the song …And The World Laughs With You. The synergy between Yorke’s vocals and the ethereal tone of the song itself is among the best that I’ve heard in recent memory.
Cosmogramma’s biggest flaw in my eyes is the fact that the beats sometimes throw a little too much at you at one time. At times, music can sound overwhelmingly busy and, because of this, become rather difficult to follow. This information overload of sorts impacts a couple of songs on the album that seem like they could’ve and would’ve been better, had Flying Lotus not tried to cram as many sounds and effects as he could into the song. However, this is just one of the various eccentricities of Flying Lotus’ unique production style that people may find endearing so it would be wise to take this criticism with a grain of salt.
Whatever the case may be, Cosmogramma is a wonderfully unique, cohesive and thematically sound album. Flying Lotus’ production style may not be for everyone purely because of its unconventional nature but it serves as a refreshing change of pace from the average Hip-Hop, Electronic and instrumental albums out there. This isn’t the perfect instrumental album but it does more than enough well to be worth more than a passing glance. Flying Lotus unabashedly bucks common conventions and does so with panache and a style that’s unmistakably his own.
Favorite Tracks – Galaxy In Janaki, Table Tennis, Dance of the Pseudo Nymph