Electronic polymath Flying Lotus is taking a meeting with an underground L.A. rapper in his Mt. Washington, California, home. Did he bring any of his music for FlyLo to hear? Well, no, but he does go into a particularly Californian spiel about how he wants to have him on as executive producer for a project bigger than music, that could have crossover with fashion and video, embracing everything happening in L.A. at the moment, perhaps even including icons like Grace Jones and David Bowie. “What about that one CD you played me two years ago?” Flying Lotus asks, slightly exasperated yet clearly interested. “What’s up with that?” The rapper digresses once again, instead envisioning something with “lots of emotion in the lyrics and some hard hip-hop beats.” Instead of something vague and abstract, Flying Lotus clearly wants something tactile and concrete.
That much is obvious on his forthcoming fourth studio album, Until the Quiet Comes, which eschews the free-jazz astral planes and furious pacing of 2010’s critically acclaimed breakthrough Cosmogramma for something more crepuscular, immediate, and song-oriented. “With Cosmogramma, I felt this strange sense of urgency, like jumping out of an airplane,” he explains. “With this one, I wanted to have tension and release, getting these little moments to work.”
What really magnifies Quiet‘s pop structure is high profile cameos: Fellow Brainfeeder collective member Thundercat stops by, as does Erykah Badu who supplies guest Badu-izms stemming from a still-unfinished studio album he’s initiated with the R&B goddess. Lotus himself is surprised to get a repeat performance from Cosmogramma spotlight-stealer Thom Yorke. “I didn’t even expect him to do something on this album. I thought he was done with me,” he says. “Now we know each other, I’ll send Thom a bunch of music randomly, my stuff and a bunch of other stuff. He reacted to this one track and asked: ‘What was up with that track? I think I got something for that.’ Thom’s just a head. He tries to stay up on what’s happening.”
A change in living space has also affected FlyLo’s pacing. When we visited his home studio in 2010, his house was nestled in one of Echo Park’s densely populated and steep hills, requiring abrupt turns down narrow hairpin roads. “It just wasn’t the place, it wasn’t right,” he says from his new house, located on a wide and silent suburban street, with a pool and lemon tree out back.
He moved in two Januarys ago, yet it still looks unfurnished and unfinished, save for the spacious room that doubles as his studio. There’s a full drum kit in one corner, a Baldwin Fun Machine drum machine in another. He’s just unpacked the UAD2 Satellite, an accelerator unit and accompanying Analog Classics plug-in bundle: “Just when I get used to a piece of musical equipment, I start all over again. For some people, they got their thing and want to stick to that. I’m really interested in the stuff that I don’t do, in what I don’t know.” His workspace, next to a Rhodes and Moog, is cluttered with keyboards, three stacked Mac Powerbooks, along with a copy of Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe. He’s blasting SpaceGhostPurrp on his iTunes, but then switches it up. Donovan’s “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” kicks to life on his speakers and he beams: “I just found out about this shit.”
FlyLo is also feeling hip-hop again, collaborating with new MCs and watching his friends in Odd Future blow up. “For awhile, I gave up on it, but I’m really enjoying rap again. It’s getting inspiring with SpaceGhostPurrrp, Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino.” In fact, one of Earl Sweatshirt’s first public appearances was dancing on-stage during FlyLo’s Coachella set this spring and the two recently hung at the house to make a new single for Adult Swim, dropped this week: “We just spent the day chilling and playing beats and we found the right one, so Earl just wrote everything in an hour.” Not a bad afternoon of work.