Flying Lotus, "You're Dead!" (Warp)
The fifth album by Los Angeles producer Flying Lotus moves even further away from his early instrumental hip-hop work toward a more fully immersed form of "fusion." Don't be misled by the title. "You're Dead!" is a celebration of what comes next.
The song cycle plays like an expedition through alternate realms and dimensions. Vistas of brassy bliss are tag-team with spastic fits of free jazz. Herbie Hancock shows up on the Fender Rhodes. Extroverted bass lines bounce off restless pattering drums. Snoop Lion inimitably drops "Nickle-plated 9/Bang! Bang!/ Blow your mind."
Opener "Theme" lays out this metaphysical plan until Kendrick Lamar takes it back to the future, spitting about having an out-of-body experience before singing repeatedly, "You never gonna catch me." It happens to be the catchiest minute of the album.
The music feels constantly in transit. Tempos and textures play possum. Take the slow-mo waddle of "Turtles" that sounds like it was recorded in a bird sanctuary. Or "Ready Err Not," a master class in warped beatsmithery. The processional "Coronus, The Terminator" is carried by a litany of torch-lit voices.
Even within songs it's about the journey. The shadowy noir of "Obligatory Cadence" moves from heart-rending strings to classic boom-bap. Closer "The Protest" opens with epic aspirations before returning to the sort of stutter-step beat that would have been right at home on FlyLo's "1983" debut.
"You're Dead!" is a deep, spiritual listen, the work of an auteur intent on not only nodding heads but also bending minds.