Only an experimental laptop artist whose music exists primarily for pensive white weedheads would purport his new album to be “basically the studies that map out the universe and the relations of heaven and hell,” as Flying Lotus — a/k/a Steven Ellison — did in a January interview with Pitchfork. You’ve gotta hand it to the guy for nailing his own pretenses, though — Cosmogramma is decidedly more, uh, cosmic, than his 2008 Los Angeles, in its atmospheric spiral away from the beat and toward a more free-flowing collage of instrumentation.
An ode to his late and great aunt Alice Coltrane, this disc is heavy on jazzy flows and orchestral elements, all backlit by Ellison’s trademark crackles and glitches. And let’s not forget the star-studded guest list.
Harpist Rebecca Raff shines with her Pearly Gate–sent plucks throughout, Thundercat jumps in on an endlessly sprawling “Mmmhmm,” and Laura Darlington’s heartbreakingly breathy vocals — which made for one of Los Angeles’s best tracks (“Auntie’s Lock/Infinitum”) — return on “Table Tennis.” Then, of course, there’s that dude from the band Atoms for Peace (Thom Yorke, or something like that), whose vocal appearance on “And the World Laughs with You” makes Cosmogramma feel a whole lot like The Eraser for a couple of minutes.