Steven Ellison may not be Dilla, but he's gotta be the best Flying Lotus ever. The LA-bred beat conductor gave us Until The Quiet Comes this month, a 47-minute lullaby for the ghosts that sometimes clamor for attention around this time of year. I'd always liked his stuff, but it was the connection to things closer to me that really made me more than casually interested—the heartbreaking/mending Kahlil Joseph short film that was set to Quiet tunes (Joseph, you'll recall, made a name doing similarly amazingwork with Shabazz Palaces). For the first time, I found myself at a show to see the dude; I expected massive, beautiful sound, but a lackluster stage set involving (a.) a dude and (b.) a laptop.
But goddamn, was I ever was wrong. FlyLo indeed used a MacBook to play selections from all throughout his considerable catalogue, along with Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools (Drank)" and some Kid A—but he did so with projection screens behind and in front of him, creating a low-tech but highly effective 3-D environment. The Lotus' silhouette flew through wormholes, chilled in the center of a black hole, beat his pads in the midst of a meteor shower. Now maybe that is something he's done before, or other people do, but ain't neeever seen no shit like that. The ubiquitous glowing MacBook apple was, for once, actually kind of comforting, when seen flying through space. At one point I thought: "I'd better capture this to put on LineOut, that's so pretty"—when suddenly the Palaceer Lazaro from Shabazz Palaces joined him onstage:
Word on the skreet—I mean Matson—is that FlyLo, Shabazz, and THEESat made a track together at some point, which seems altogether natural and right.
As for the show: it was my favorite beat show I've ever seen, engrossing, fun (his breaks in the music to simply say "oh shit" or "whiskey time"—he later gave his bottle to the crowd—seemed to kill all pretense), and triumphant like the end of a victorious high school football game. Maybe that last was due to all the high school kids packed in there, but we were all on the same page musically, for once.