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Flying Lotus soars

Stephen Ellison, a hip-hop producer, abstract sound auteur and explorer of altered states, is not known for being the most down-to-earth kind of guy. The man known as Flying Lotus has been putting out releases since 2006, each one featuring off-kilter drum beats and undulating electronica to create a mind-altering, kaleidoscopic daze. Ellison’s October release, Until the Quiet Comes, doesn’t deviate from his quest for psychedelic enlightenment but takes on a new and exciting aesthetic in doing so.

Ellison has previously listed seminal hip-hop producers such as J Dilla as influences, but his most recent album relies less and less on earthly beats. He instead synthesizes sounds only hinted at in his previous work, exploring a more experimental orchestration of instruments and vocal samples. “All In” makes for an elegant entrance, with delicate chimes, karmic harp samples, light-footed drums and wonky electric pianos. Other times he leaves the drums entirely out of the picture, as on “Until The Color Came,” a drippy collage of arpeggiated blips; and “Hunger,” a dark mesh of distorted string samples breezily accompanied by haunting female vocals.

As evidenced by the celestial and lyrically straightforward “DMT song,” it is no secret where Ellison derives much of his inspiration from. The downside is that while Lotus is tripping out to “a world where you can spread your wings and fly away,” listeners are sometimes left stranded in the real world and the transmissions he sends back can be a little far out. “Sultan’s Request” gets painfully noisy — unlistenable even — and “See Thru to U” is dense and cryptic, an abstract racket with few grounded elements to which fans can cling. Although he attempts throughout the album to convey his auditory hallucinations faithfully, they are often too esoteric for earthly — or sober — minds to comprehend.

The airy vibe of this month’s record, however, makes it Ellison’s most accessible yet. Just when we start to get lost in the maze of wobbly synths or erratic beats on “Getting There,” angelic voices descend to rescue us amid a cloudy mass of woozy harmonies. The jazz-tinged samples that frequently surface are also refreshing additions; slithering electric bass weaves its way through Ellison’s dreamworld, and hazy jazz chord progressions materialize and disappear.

As Ellison is first and foremost a beat-maker, his previous releases have been perfect for obnoxiously blasting out your car windows while cruising through the neighborhood. They were more like mix-tapes than albums, compilations of disjointed instrumental hip-hop tracks with no sense of flow from one song to another. Until The Quiet Comes is a cohesive and mature work, representing the journey Ellison always wanted to take us on but never could. It lures you in with sweet melodies, lays you back upon soft clouds of ambience and pulls you through the rabbit hole and into the surreal universe of Flying Lotus.