Flying Lotus

Free jazz's errant prince regent claims his crown at the ICA, with a subtle – and at times over-subtle – re-interpretation of his electronic masterwork 'Cosmogramma.'


Words by: Charlie Jones

When *we last spoke *
to FlyLo (Steven Ellison) just after the release of ‘Cosmogramma’ we discussed at some length his burning desire to “continue the conversation” with the astral travelling music of his aunt, Alice Coltrane, her husband John and the canon of experimental jazz. The album resolutely achieved this, pulling off a daring mix of his signature electronic craft with snatches of more identifiable ‘jazz’ oscillating in and out of the cosmic haze. It was bold, beautiful and most of all subtle. Not a perfect record but the immensely satisfying work of an iconic producer pushing his sound as far as it could go, outwards towards the elusive cosmos.

His appearance, with many of the musicians from the album, under the Infinity guise at the ICA was bold, at times beautiful but certainly not subtle. The path to infinity is seemed was fast, frenetic, even frantic. The group set out their stall early on with an intense intro that left a few of the Shoreditch hipsters visibly hiding their concern. The barrage of admittedly virtuosic free jazz continued apace for the next couple of tracks abating only with the appearance of Andreya Triana. On of the UK’s most promising soul voices audibly changed the dynamic for the better pulling together just the right amount of unity from the chaos.

Moving on there were other highlights, LP standout ‘Zodiac Shit’ became a different beast altogether in its truly expansive live incarnation. Upon going home and returning to the album on record there’s no doubt some of tracks sounded less pulsatingly visceral than they had done live. What was needed was more of the album’s delicate balancing act, where Ellison had been masterfully in control, at the ICA he looked and sounded like he was taking something of an enjoyable ride in the back seat. Of course, you can well imagine if continuing the conversation with Alice and John Coltrane is your intention that telling their son Ravi to tone it down a notch might be tough.

What does it all mean? This was Infinity’s second gig and whilst the pieces didn’t all fit there was every reason to be very hopeful for future refinement of the concept. Oh, and it may have been the ‘safest’ track in there but their rework of ‘Tea Leaf Dancers’ in the encore was truly transcendent, cosmic even.

Flying Lotus’ next release will be the ‘Patterns + Grids’ EP, out on the 26th September on Warp.