While you have an idea of what you're going to hear when you spin a new Flying Lotus record for the first time, there's still uncertainty. His albums, which have grown increasingly ambitious and conceptual over the years, have seen him send hip-hop from the streets (his 2008 classic Los Angeles) to the stars (2010's Cosmogramma) and into the spiritual afterlife on his last record, 2014's You're Dead!.
Five years on Flamagra pulls the experimental producer back to earth. But the record still pushes at the boundaries of any expectations you bring to it and to the genres it mashes and warps while remaining inescapably and familiarly FlyLo.
The familiar touch points are all here; his trademark hazy off-kilter shuffle, diversions into hard cosmic jazz, mad explosions of street funk tempered by calm serene synths, and a more-is-more attitude to sound design which he then covers in an existential and all-encompassing layer of murk.
What's unexpected is how it all comes together. Flamagra manages to delight and frustrate, invite and challenge in equal measure. With a running time of more than an hour and a track listing of 27 songs its a daunting proposition.
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But as the majority of tracks, like the valium groove of Debbie is Depressed, the woozy Capillaries and the jerky experimental jazz of Pilgrim Side Eye, all hover around the two-minute mark it quickly becomes clear that Flamagra is designed to be listened to as a single sonic trip rather than browsing your way through "the hits".
Despite oodles of weird, there's a level of accessibility that's been missing from his previous releases. This can be attributed to the vocalists he's collabed with, who provide hooks and humanity over the personality-filled nature of his incredibly busy beats.
Songs like the sun-kissed More with Anderson .Paak, the hard-hitting Black Balloons Reprise with Denzel Curry, the joyous Spontaneous with Little Dragon and the slippery rapping Tierra Whack brings to Yellow Belly can all be considered highlights.
Still, "accessibility" is a subjective word. Even at its most straightforward, this remains a challenging album. In many ways, Flamagra can be considered a beat culture prog-rock album. Revelling and celebrating in its obvious excesses and musical mastery and daring the listener to keep up.
Artist: Flying Lotus
Verdict: Uncompromising, challenging and endlessly rewarding for those who stick with it.