By John Durant /// Staff Writer
If there is one term that defines You’re Dead!, it’s musical chaos. The fifth studio album of Los Angeles based producer and composer Flying Lotus takes the genre-bending approach of his previous releases to even further extremes, spanning genres from hip-hop to jazz to IDM to metal. These uncanny jumps in genre prove to be jarring on first listen, but are connected by a common concept: death. By centering this album on different feelings surrounding the mysteries of the death, Flying Lotus has managed to create work that captures his own hopes and fears of heading into the afterlife in a poignant and relatable way.
The structure of You’re Dead! is such that the different styles of music are grouped together, giving what could have been an incoherent, overblown record a surprisingly cohesive feel. Ideas within these smaller arcs of songs move very quickly over the album’s 19 tracks and 38 minutes, with songs flowing into each other like one big composition. This urgency is particularly apparent in the jazz dominated intro tracks “Theme,” “Tesla,” “Cold Dead,” and “Fkn Dead,” all of which feature intricate improvisations of virtuoso bassist and frequent FlyLo collaborator Thundercat. It seems as if melodies and structures dissipate as soon as they start to become clear on this first suite of tracks, being discarded for some new theme almost instantaneously.
From there the smoke begins to clear a little with two hip-hop tracks that feature some of You’re Dead!’s only lyrics: “Never Catch Me,” featuring Kendrick Lamar, and “Dead Man’s Tetris” featuring Snoop Dogg as well as Captain Murphy, Flying Lotus’s violent, pitched shifted rapper alter-ego.
“Never Catch Me” is easily one of the album’s highlights, surrounding Lamar’s abstract, intense lyrics with serene piano loops, rapid-fire bass lines, and buzzy synthesizers that build up to the point of feeling genuinely anthemic. This energy is followed up by the peppy, instrumentally dense “Turkey Dog Coma.” Then the album starts to slow its pace a little bit.
Gorgeous, expansive, prog-rock tinged songs like “Coronus, the Terminator” and “Siren Song” are mixed in with IDM tracks such as “Ready Err Not” and “Obligatory Cadence” that will sound familiar to fans of Flying Lotus’s earlier work. The album ends with “The Protest,” a serene piece that seems to concisely restate the themes of the work as a whole.
The progression of music and sentiments in You’re Dead! make it a gripping listen. Despite instrumental music occupying the vast majority of the album, You’re Dead! comes across with a clear story of a soul journeying from feelings confusion to elation to loss to connection with something infinite. A lot of remarkable individual moments are to be had from this wild, adventurous record, but only when viewing it as a whole does it begin to touch on something profound; order comes out of its chaos, beauty comes out of its dissonance and thrilling life comes out of grim death.
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