Flying Lotus | photo by Jamie Stow for WXPN
Space Is The Place: Flying Lotus’ sound and vision transcends at Franklin Music Hall
“Let’s take a nice and deep breath. And slowly expire. And take a nice, deep breath.”
When sequencer-producer Flying Lotus pulled out from behind his tech-boulder rostrum atop the stage of the Franklin Music Hall to intone those words from “Black Balloons Reprise,” it came as a-late-in-the-set welcome (or warning) to his show’s intense psychedelic-ized aesthetic. Take it in, die a little, come back and enjoy your death some more. A bit Tibetan Book of the Dead for a hot August’s night, perhaps, but why not?
Done up with Sun Ra-like Space is the Place / Ancient-to-the-Future / Afrocentric imagery and a dense, self-penned and produced score mixing late 70s’ Donald Byrd (chorales, elegantly jazzy electric pianos) with Diplo-worthy bass drops — all couched in Lee Scratch Perry’s scary brand of dub housing — “Flying Lotus in 3D” was a visual head trip and an aural delight. It may have grown a tad tedious at times, but, as far as concerts where you had to wear special glasses that kept slipping off your nose and endure tie-dyed, Day-Glo kids doing Grateful Dead dance moves, this gig was cool.
Credit where credit is due: the night’s intensity commenced with a long opening set from keyboardist Brandon Coleman’s Spacetalker, space-case crooner Salami Rose Joe Louis, and DJ/host PBDY. In particular, the propulsive percussive action applied to Coleman’s flighty, avant-jazz compositions were an apt, clusterfucky lead-in to Lotus’ crowded soundscape. Just a thought – Flying Lotus’ nearly seamless, segue-less score could have used some of Coleman’s live drumming rumble.
Flying Lotus’ 3D showcase – heightened with “Ghost Tile” 3D LED effects – really did build a virtual world (or wall) around and behind him. Sculptural red rocks to climb, starships to board, crazy faces to embrace. That all of this started with Lotus’ post-jungle freak out “Fire Is Coming” and its short film featuring David Lynch talking out of the mouth of a giant rabbit-muskrat, certainly lent the evening an air of the absurdly macabre (or the macabrely absurd).
No sooner than the Lynch-bunny shut its mouth, and the crack of “Fkn Dead”’s hidden chorales and spacious keyboard riffs began, the audience got besieged by a million apocalyptic trinkets, revolving ceiling fans, hovering halos and Power Ranger tchotchkes before entering the black & white collages and the progressive piano-laced funk of “Burning Down the House.”
From there, the 3D imagery grew more celestial and ominous in tandem with Lotus’ dark but open airy arrangements of murky souped-up synth moments such as “Coronus, The Terminator.” Kafhaesque flying cockroaches with faces, talking skulls and exploding disco balls seemed to bounce in time to this “Terminator”’s eventual thumping thunder. Then Flying Lotus began to speak.
“Philly, I know this girl, Debbie, and she looked so sad,” went his opening to the twilight-y electro jazz of “Debbie Is Depressed.” Like Vincent Price laughing over a mutated “Thriller,” Lotus’ deep voice added its own frightening tone and texture to the proceedings.
As an evening full of sun bursts, sphynx heads and space crafts unfolded and erupted on the screens behind him as the show wore on, and the wild house of “Takashi” spurted out from the speakers, you wished that Lotus would have jumped out before his mountainous superstructure programming perch a little more often, to skulk around and rap. No problem. As a far as 3D events go, Flying Lotus did right, by presenting a night full of mayhem and mirth in sound and vision that managed to be ferocious on both counts.