FlyLo’s ‘You’re Dead!’ a trippy voyage


Fair use image from Brainfeeder Records

Flying Lotus explores mortality and the afterlife on the jazz-tinged electronic release ‘You’re Dead!’

Conor Battles, Editor-in-Chief, Arts & Entertainments Editor

Steven Ellison is one of music’s greatest enigmas.
The electronic producer and occasional rapper, better known under the handle Flying Lotus, has released a steadily-improving catalog of work since his 2006 debut, and this year’s You’re Dead! stands as his best and most inspired work yet.
As a concept album, You’re Dead! explores death of all kinds, delving primarily into what follows over the long, strange trip of the afterlife.
You’re Dead! is almost indescribable, as far as genre is concerned. At times it is a raving, pulsing electronic symphony, at others a relaxed, jazzy odyssey of a record, occasionally giving way from instrumentals to a sort of jazz-rap hybrid, featuring vocal contributions from Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and FlyLo’s own rapping alter-ego, Captain Murphy.
The album is full of collaborators, spanning decades in music history. Legendary jazz-fusion keyboardist Herbie Hancock and Suicidal Tendencies bassist Thundercat are only a sampling of the artists that join the above rappers in fleshing out the lineup.
The jazz influence that permeates the album is not difficult to explain. As the nephew of John and Alice Coltrane, Ellison weaves the loose, improvisational tone of the genre into his production, although his bizarre, experimental style perhaps more closely resembles Sun Ra’s eclectic compositions than his uncle’s comparatively “tame” work.
In an age where the LP as a medium is becoming rapidly irrelevant, You’re Dead! is an album that demands to be listened to in full, in proper order. Standing in at slightly under forty minutes, the album’s 19 tracks seem too short to be considered individual songs. This is true, in a way. Each song merges with the next in a way that makes it difficult to tell if a track has even actually changed. When listened to in one go, You’re Dead! flows as a single cohesive work of art in a manner reserved for only the greatest conceptual albums of years past.
Like the rest of Flying Lotus’ work, You’re Dead! is not an easy album to “get.” It is no genre in particular – not quite jazz, not quite hip-hop, not quite electronica – and so it is difficult to recommend to the average listener. It is an entirely alien sound, and just like death, the only way to describe it is to experience it.