What happens when you get too far ahead? The answer to that question when you're talking about Flying Lotus is that you only get more popular. Cosmogramma, the complex third album from the Los Angeles producer, was his greatest critical and commerical success. It was a right time, right place scenario. Building off the widely heralded Los Angeles, Steven Ellison had the freedom to do just about anything he wanted. So he did. Fusion drum & bass, harp concrete, Zodiac shit.
It's been a bit more than two years since Cosmogramma blew minds and woofers, and rather than push the same sort of energy, Ellison has chosen what he calls a "more intimate" path for his follow-up, Until the Quiet Comes. Ellison has said that the album is more about "tension and release," and you can hear it from the off. Where Cosmogramma plunged you immediately into a confusing morass, Quiet lends you a hand and smiles. "All In" twinkles, and so does the track that follows. "The Nightcaller" has a Lawrence Welk... sorry... Alice Coltrane-like choir bup-bup-bupping along before it stops abruptly and becomes a grimy beat sketch that would've made Dilla proud.
But then we're floating again. And herein lies an issue with Quiet. In the same way that you might underrate a serious actor doing a comedy, it's easy to think that Quiet's blissful nature means that it was somehow a lesser album. Or that Ellison has regressed in some way. Cosmogramma was a great album and it sounded like a great album, in all of the ways that you want it to. Messy, tough to get a handle on, an artist "hard at work." "Getting There" from Quiet, on the other hand, sounds like wind chimes and weed smoke.
Actually, come to think of it, that's what the album sounds like in general. Pleasant is the word. But not simple. Quiet has just as many corners worth peeking down. Just follow along with "Tiny Tortures" on headphones as it twitters about, or how "me Yesterday // Corded" seems to float effortlessly into its second section. In the middle of the album, things pick up with the I'm-about-to-drop-something-special anticipation of "Sultan's Request" which finds its climax in "Putty Boy Strut," if only for a few minutes. But soon we're taken down the rabbit hole of the title track, only to emerge with "See Thru To U," a collab with fellow galactic voyager Erykah Badu. It's simultaneously one of the album's most coherent, fully-formed moments and most abstract. Ellison places Badu—and the track itself—beneath a quivering haze that makes her sound like, given the chance, she'd climb right out of your third eye into the room with you. It's just a trick, though. Quiet is full of them. Treat yourself to it.