FLYING LOTUS at the Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), Saturday (October 13), 9 pm. $23.50. RT, SS, TW. See listing.
In less than a decade, experimental electronic musician/producer Steven Ellison has gone from relative unknown to demigod-status visionary. As Flying Lotus, he mixes jazz cadence and hip-hop insouciance into something incorrigibly spiritual and undeniably emotional.
In a post-Dilla world, where beat wizardry gets its due (sometimes hyperbolically), FlyLo's become the public face for a once cultish instrumental beat scene. And since his 2006 debut album, 1983, he's gotten better and unbelievably better, as heard on 2010's sublime opus Cosmogramma.
So the hero worship and resulting frenzy surrounding his fourth and latest, Until The Quiet Comes, is expected, though it seems like something he struggles with.
"I was nervous going into it," he admits. "Like, ‘Are people going to turn on me?' The thing about the last time around was that the timing was really special. I don't feel like there was a statement made musically [or] anything happening on that scale in the kind of work that I do.
"So when I started making this record, I was worried my time might have passed, that even if it was musically as good, people would be disappointed because the story isn't as magical on paper."
For an artist of FlyLo's calibre to express self-doubt and trepidation about his career longevity is rare. And it's this neurotic energy that keeps him competitive.
"I feel like after I signed to Warp [in 2007], they were redefining their sound based on me. I was like, ‘Hell nah!' It freaked me out. The closest artist on the label to me was Prefuse, and then there was a point when it felt like there was an influx [of musicians who sounded like me]. I was getting labelled as this Dilla-inspired beat guy, but I'm like, ‘Dude, I have more to say than that.'"
For Until The Quiet Comes, a record he calls minimalist in comparison to the baroque Cosmogramma, FlyLo went back to basics, literally. He re-enrolled in music school, started studying piano and exercised songwriting restraint. The title speaks to when FlyLo is at his creative best.
"The magical stuff happens when everyone leaves. That's when I can dial things in and do the things that make people gravitate toward my music - when no one can see or hear me."