Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma

Ash Akhtar 05/05/2010

Rating: 3/5

Cosmogramma, as most of us now already know, is Steven Ellison's third full length album and second for Warp Records. Following on from Los Angeles (2008), Cosmogramma is, for Ellison at least, a literal departure from earth. Presented as a 'Space Opera', Ellison squeezes 17 tracks into the 45 minutes that comprise this futuristic release; the title itself alluding to an understanding of the known universe. Somewhat ironically, there is little audible space to be found on the album.

Regardless, Cosmogramma sounds much like the archetypal FlyLo record: pushing hard with electric energy at intricate sonic layers. The 8-bit confusion that laces opener 'Clock Catcher' spills into the brutal clattering and jazz noodling on 'Pickled!' and there is a digital intensity barely restrained throughout the record right up until closer 'Galaxy In Janaki'. At the close of play, the listener will have been exposed to a series of dizzying beats sat on the very precipice of distortion twinned with vague jazz implications and live instrumentation. Being Alice Coltrane's nephew, it is surprising for us to hear Ellison only just unlocking this jazz influence. Cousin, Ravi Coltrane, makes numerous appearances across the album - spooling tenor sax licks within tracks.

Cosmogramma is filled with deep texture and signature shattered snare patterns. Much has been made of Thom Yorke's appearance on '…And the world laughs with you', but the track is little more than a few minutes of burbling and squeak: it's certainly not something that requests an urgent rewind. It's fair to say that much of 'Cosmogramma' suffers with such a deep and unnecessary over-complication that it requires several listens before it can be grasped with any real meaning. The stronger tracks such as 'Zodiac Shit', 'Computer Face', 'Arkestry', 'Do The Astral Plane' - though similarly sheathed in warm, glitched pads - all benefit from a structural simplicity and implied power that is otherwise lost throughout most of the album.

Displaying a tacit, oblique distaste for the dancefloor, Ellison has released an unwieldy and obese album into the stratosphere. Slipping through dubstep, garage, techno and hip-hop, Ellison's study of electronica created with the benefit of live instrumentation presents occasional orgiastic treats, but is mostly nothing more than an anti-mellifluous exercise in listener-satisfaction which, in the long term, is likely to render 'Cosmogramma' more an anachronism than cosmogram.

Release date: 03/05/2010