Few people can trump the familial pedigree of Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus. Fewer still create their own path in music, rather than following in the steps of their progenitors.
Ellison is the son of songwriter Marilyn McLeod and the grand-nephew of Alice Coltrane and the most legendary of sax players, John Coltrane. The household that he grew up in clearly influences his work, with tinges of jazz appearing regularly. But, as with many of younger generations, Ellison has been drawn to the works of DJs such as Madlib and J Dilla, experimental electronica composers, and various rappers.
Listening to an album by Flying Lotus is like going on a trip with a musical schizophrenic. He has endless creativity, yet never seems to settle into one style. As a techie, modern technology has allowed him to tinker in ways that Miles Davis or his uncle could have only dreamed about. Still, the roots of free form jazz take hold within him and encourage his experimentation. He told Salon writer Sarah Gray:
My family, they would throw the John Coltrane festival, which would happen every year, and it would be all-day jazz. And I was like, when I was a child, it went on for so long. So it was always there. And my appreciation for it only increased more and more as I got older, and I started learning more and doing my own digging and living and stuff, and then it seems like every five years I get inspired to go back to John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane and Miles and all that. And like have a new appreciation and understanding for the journey of it, the technical aspects of everything, just have more appreciation for it every five years of my own living and whatnot. Go back to it and, “Damn, man. Why do I feel so much?”
After making beats and scores for Adult Swim for a spell, Ellison created his first full-length album 1983, and released it in 2006 at the ripe old age of 23. Since then he’s released a new work every two years, although the trend looks likely to end this year, with no work yet to be released for 2016.
Flying Lotus is a perfect listen for those who love to explore what music can be achieved with the use of computers when in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing. Check it out if you like IDM, experimental electronica, jazz, and hip hop.