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Album Review: Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

You’re Dead!, the latest album from musician-producer Flying Lotus, is one that stubbornly refuses to adhere to the limitations of genre. Whether it’s the walking bass at the end of “Tesla,” the distorted guitar riffs that open “Cold Dead,” or the 8-bit sounds on “Dead Man’s Tetris,” Flying Lotus is not afraid to mix and match various effects and styles for the purpose of realizing his dementedly brilliant vision.        

It doesn’t always sound deranged though, and the album’s most accessible moments are some of its most thrilling. On “Never Catch Me,” rapper Kendrick Lamar lends his virtuosic lines to a neo-soul cut that sounds a bit like a B-side from Robert Glasper’s Black Radio. But unlike many of the tunes from that record, “Never Catch Me” lacks a big, catchy hook that defines the song. It’s Flying Lotus at his most radio-friendly, but he still refuses to compromise his vision in the interest of accessibility.        

On “Moment of Hesitation,” he references straight-ahead jazz similarly to how he cribs from neo-soul on “Never Catch Me.” The genre is a blueprint, not a mandate. In “Moment,” the legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock echoes amorphous, wandering saxophone lines with floating keyboard chords that respond to the horn without being beholden to it, all while double-time percussion drives the rhythm underneath them. Like “Never Catch Me,” the song references its influences while breaking free enough to sound wholly original.

Sometimes the album gets outright bizarre, as in the case of the playful, schoolyard-like rhythm juxtaposed with trance-like synthesizer lines on “Ready Err Not,” but it all sounds like the pure self-expression of a challenging genius. You’re Dead is pastiche of the highest order.

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