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Flying Lotus - Pattern + Grid World

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Artist: Flying Lotus

Album: Pattern + Grid World

Label: Warp

Review date: Oct. 29, 2010

Flying Lotus, neé Steven Ellison, makes hard music. All that scratch and hiss and bleep — even for the most open-minded audience, he can be intimidatingly abstract. How should one even go about listening to Flying Lotus? It’s ostensibly hip hop, but dancing doesn’t seem quite right. Yet, for all of his complexity, ignoring the beat and sitting stonily seems wrong, too, for Flying Lotus is more than a demanding artist: he’s also fun.

Its saturnine title aside, Pattern + Grid World, Flying Lotus’s new EP, is cheerily experimental. For sure, Pattern presents a challenge to listeners. But Flying Lotus’s difficult constructions don’t feel like a chore; rather, Pattern is like a puzzle whose pieces — here, the samples and loops cascading back and forth — are disassembled and put back together again. To listen to the EP, in other words, is to participate in a game, and a delightful one at that.

“Kill Your Coworkers” is the most exemplary instance of Flying Lotus’s entertaining art. It is pure Nintendo soundscape, its bits and phrases seemingly reaped from primitive Zelda cartridges. But rather than registering as the annoying repetition of a video game left on pause, “Kill Your Coworkers” presents a charging set of protean sequencing, dissecting and reconstituting itself anew over a sprightly three minutes. Although the song may not make for the most pleasant of listening experiences — playing it now made me more than a little sympathetic to my parents’ impatience with my youthful Super Mario habit — its shifting, playful dynamics are both an orchestration to be grasped and a good time to be had. It is way more satisfying than would appear on paper.

The minimal “Jurassic Notion/M Theory” is similarly old school. The song is, as its divided title suggests, two movements, the first of which sounds like dated turntablism. The beat is disjointed and plainly manipulated, for a result that is less a break than a breaking down of the rhythm. If a hip hop producer’s job is generally to stay out of the picture, to be so smooth as to become invisible, then “Jurassic” is a reveal, a reminder that there is a breathing person behind all that automation. “Jurassic”’s second half speeds up into a mishmash of techno throb that builds into a final cacophony of voice and percussion. The racket of the song’s conclusion is, again, a restatement that Flying Lotus is calling the shots. He who giveth the beat taketh away.

Pattern + Grid World is brisk — none of its seven songs cracks four minutes — and lacks the monumentalism of this year’s Cosmogramma. As a literally small record, the EP can seem like a diversion. But it is an immensely enjoyable one. Pattern is fun in the manner of a well-edited crossword, further gratifying its listeners as each piece falls in its place and a clever, overarching theme emerges. If only Flying Lotus could publish EPs like these on a daily basis.

By Ben Yaster

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