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- The Lightbox, London »
- Flying Lotus »
Like Saturday Night Fever transposed to a walk-in wardrobe, Vauxhall’s Lightbox is the perfect venue for California DJ and producer Steven Ellison to bask in the glory of a job well done. Under the Flying Lotus moniker the 26-year-old Warp signee has wowed critics with his second LP Los Angeles, a swirling hip-hop platter suggesting the disorienting juvenilia of online cartoon network Adult Swim, J Dilla’s modernist collages and a more upbeat take on Hyperdub’s nerve-jangling dubstep beats. Above all, it was a record of understated depths, winning the typically bedroom-dwelling vote and paving the way for a potential crossover success the likes of which haven’t been seen since DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… hauled hip-hop over the coals back in 1996.
Our venue for tonight’s victory lap is an Aladdin’s cave of lasers and wall-mounted LEDs sequenced to rewire brains rendered suggestible by Ellison’s pristine sorcery, and yet it so nearly didn’t happen that way. Word on the street just half an hour before the show is that the power’s shorted out and the gig will take place over the road, leading one to conclude bitterly that the visual stimulants so cruelly being denied us are like so many Christmas tree lights – one goes, and you have to chuck the whole lot out. Thankfully, however, Christmas is declared back on with minutes to spare and we arrive to the strident strains of Kode 9, one of two Hyperdub luminaries slated to appear tonight in support of our main act (Zomby never actually turns up). The man known to his Glaswegian mates as Steve Goodman rolls out some massive UK funky, including numbers from future Hyperdub first lady Cooly G and Hard House Banton. Just don’t call it wonky, yeah?
For his part Fly-Lo does nothing to hide his enthusiasm, bobbing and feinting over the decks for a party-oriented set taking in nods to Brainfeeder acolytes Samiyam and Ras G, Burial and gender-confused Madlib alter ego Quasimoto. One bizarre interlude even brings Kanye West’s oddball recent ‘Love Lockdown’ single to mind, and subsequent internet enquiries confirm suspicions. Beats pile up at bizarre angles, eschewing the subtle sweep of recent recorded output and displaying a penchant for vocal samples more than previously. As trade-offs go it’s something of a mixed bag – moments betray a beefed-up intensity that suggest brave new worlds beckon for Ellison in 2009, but others miss out on the coherence that underpinned Los Angeles. It’s worth noting that this is a man sufficiently concerned with transcendental pleasures to seek an audience with the gods through a bong-load of DMT, and part of LA’s success was to let the pop culture flotsam romping around his brain seep out in such measured fashion as to sound substantial. Here they’re just allowed to jostle noisily.
But complaints are a little like begrudging Ussein Bolt his twenty-metre trot toward the finish line at last year’s Olympics – when you’ve blown the competition so cleanly and comprehensively out of the water as Ellison has over the past twelve months, a little showboating isn’t merely a luxury, it’s an imperative.
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