When Los Angeles-native Steven Ellison, better known as Flying Lotus, exploded onto the 2010 scene with his critically acclaimed album Cosmogramma, he solidified his reputation as a juggernaut of electronic jazz. The often spastic and disorienting landscape of the album served as a sensational prelude to Flying Lotus’ 2012 release of Until the Quiet Comes, outshining the new release by far. Unleashed in September, the new album is a comfortable crux in Ellison’s personal evolution-rendered-in-sound, but leaves a weak aftertaste for fans of his older work.
Until the Quiet Comes is not nearly as obtrusive and demanding as the electric psychedelia of Cosmogramma. This may serve to express a fresh soup of ideas that evolved from the previous release, but it does so by compensating with safety in favour of substance. The dusky lounge ambiance filtering through Niki Randa’s silky vocals in “All In“ and “Getting There” may prove too fleeting and dissociated from the hallucinogenic FlyLo of 2010 to fans looking for continuum. The introductory numbers to the 18-track album warn of easily dismissed nearly-couture fashion boutique soundtracks. The large remainder of Until the Quiet Comes skirts the line between ambient and unresolved.
The small elements of surprise that gave Cosmogramma its unique texture, from the disassembling violin potpourri of “Zodiac Shit“ to the consummation of white-noise and jazz on “Aural Palette Cleansing“, are missing from Until the Quiet Comes. A tinge of jazz is echoed in the new album’s thirteenth track, “Only if you Wanna”, in a fleeting moment of uninspired humdrum. “Sultan’s Request” is a tranquilized flop, struggling with its own drunken sound and incapable of escaping awkward halts that anticipate nothing. If you are determined to slug it through the next eleven tracks, prepare to reckon with the helium-high chubby-cheeked-chipmunk techno voice you wanted to strangle at candy-kid raves on “Putty Boy Strut“. Erykah Badu provides the only tolerably memorable moment of the album, briefly making an appearance with her soothing almond-flavoured voice on “See Through to U“, only to be masked in a few seconds by an ill-placed glottal “La-La-La-La” you might hear from amateur horror flick children.
The only really interesting moment on Until the Quiet Comes is the unusual vocal arrangement of “DMT Song“ that sounds more like an inebriated Toby Driver sniffling out an unlikely commercial jingle. Thom Yorke returns for a collaboration on “Electric Candyman”, which should be a promising venture given the incredible potential of an Ellison-Yorke mutant. The arrangement is certainly more interesting than the rest of Until the Quiet Comes, evoking some elements of Cosmogramma’s pastiche and easy to identify with for fans of Radiohead’s 2011 album The King of Limbs, however the vocals are almost unidentifiable as Thom Yorke, serving only as a name-dropping trick in the end.
Seventeen tracks into the album, the shuffling and quaint static stutter of “Me Yesterday//Corded“ just seems exhausted and is not helped by the unnecessary “Dream to Me”, whose ocean-washed tide of synth is a generic close to an unfulfilling album. Flying Lotus made a definitive mark in his career with Cosmogramma, in the same year as Free the Robots released their psychotropic 2010 album CTRL ALT DELETE and Gonjasufi exhaled the smoky esprit of A Sufi and a Killer. The Gaslamp Killer collaborated with Flying Lotus himself on the 2008 album Los Angeles and had three whacked out EPs under his belt by 2010. Until the Quiet Comes may have been a personal vision for Steven Ellison, but it’s far too careful to make a truly lasting impression that stands apart from the glory of Cosmogramma and the context of its day. The strangely-hyped release of Until the Quiet Comes may satisfy drowsy lounges and listeners looking for a quick and forgettable fix, but long-standing fans of Flying Lotus will have to find their solace in the sweet ether of Cosmogramma for a stingy lack of substance in the new album.