Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, clearly has an affinity with London. The city hosted the tenth-anniversary party for his record label Brainfeeder back in 2018, though various creative ventures outside of music – directing forthcoming sci-fi movie Ash and producing the 2021 Grammy Award-winning album It Is What It Is for bass-toting funkster and collaborator Thundercat, for instance – have preoccupied him since.
For his long-awaited return, the mish-mash crowd of hip-hop zealots and electronica aficionados huddled in anticipation for the “genre-defying A/V show” at HERE Outernet, which provided a cosmic oasis amidst the miserable storm outside. With weighty expectations, FlyLo delivered spectacularly.
That was despite some scheduling drama, which meant he arrived on stage 45 minutes earlier than communicated, leaving sections of grumbling fans feeling short-changed. Not that the taste-making producer was wary, however, as staggered beats and multi-coloured lasers permeated the venue as soon as the solitary producer helmed the decks.
Merging cuts from throughout his boundary-erasing career, from celebrated 2010 album Cosmogramma to 2019’s Flamagra, it was ‘Black Gold’ and ‘Pain and Blood’ from his score to Netflix anime Yasuke which drew audibly surprised cheers, gleefully responding: “This is so fucking cool”. Intermittently addressing the crowd throughout, FlyLo genuinely seemed humbled that appreciation from this side of the pond was as fervent as ever.
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Amebic patterns, Manga/Edo era-inspired backdrops, and erupting bombs of lava occupied the crystal-clear LED screen behind Flying Lotus, punctuating his glitchy, chest-crunching beats, which mesmerised as much as overwhelmed the 2,000-capacity crowd. Even the trance-induced bar staff were too immersed to serve punters drinks.
Ignoring the audience’s need for rhythm initially, the producer flitted from track to track, embracing London’s penchant for experimentalism. That was before dropping ‘5.23.19’, the percussive track from Brainfeeder’s very own MONO/POLY, swiftly followed by Waajeed’s house shuffler ‘Power In Numbers’, offering up a satisfying sense of groove in amongst his trippy, synaptic mixing.
Despite the cosmic spell being broken by television screens transmitting a live stream of the show which are dotted around the venue, the producer willfully engaged with the audience’s energy, never venturing down the experimental rabbit hole too deep before gear-shifting to a crowd-pleaser. A fertile venue ideal for a midweek rave, Ellison flaunts his masterful, versatile mixing as though he’s also lapping up his own curation.
Locked behind the decks as a crimson Flying Lotus logo branded the entire screen behind him, he launched into fan-favourite ‘Zodiac Shit’, which brought the set to a close for about thirty seconds. That’s before the producer – buoyed by ear-busting cheers to return – dropped his Kendrick Lamar collaboration ‘Never Catch Me’, its whirring keys wrapping about the seminal rapper’s vocals and whipping up Outernet into a frenzy before leading into ‘Them Changes’, the famed funk-fuelled jam that has propelled Thundercat to Grammy Award-winning stardom.
Flying Lotus has consistently raised his own bar with each new iteration of his cutting-edge audiovisual show. Here’s to his next era of innovation.