Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma (Warp)

Listeners in search of conventional song structure immediately will be drawn to "... And the World Laughs With You," which features the vocals of Radiohead's Thom Yorke. But that tune is not much different from the rest of the daringly avant-garde tracks on this highly anticipated third release from the electronic artist known to his mama as Steve Ellison.

In terms of dark instrumental hip-hop producers, Flying Lotus is less like, say, DJ Shadow, and more akin to Prefuse 73 or Four Tet, although he takes his music further out than either of those artists. For Ellison, it's not so much about cobbling together slamming beats, but about using hundreds of samples to create highly personal collisions of noise and melody. The result can be claustrophobic and off-putting, but those who invest time and attention will be rewarded with a musically complex, and sometimes emotionally intense, musical journey.

There's a bit of a trip-hop vibe in "Mmmhmm," which features some indecipherable vocals by Thundercat. The album's most groove-oriented tune, "Do the Astral Plane," is a killer, combining rattling metallic percussion, a P-Funk keyboard line, spacey disco pings and eruptions of soulful horns. I also dig the lush, Portishead-style "Zodiac Shit" and "Recoiled," in which an effervescent music-box melody, jungle-animal squeals and occasional harp samples drift through the sounds of power tools run amok.

There's so much packed into Cosmogramma's dense compositions that it could be considered a musical mirror in which you see what you bring to the image—and maybe a little of what you're looking for.


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